Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I didn’t have a lot of time to browse for books as I usually do when it’s my turn to host book club, so I ran into Fogarty’s and took advice from expert Theresa. She recommended Woman in the Window by A J Finn. Theresa gave the added recommendation that the author was suitable ‘eye candy’ and produced a photo and a newspaper cutting – over and above the call of duty I thought, but I took the book and shared her viewpoint with Shakespear’s Sisters. We are divided on the topic of ‘eye candy’ but I think united on the choice of book!
Anna Fox lives alone-a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her days drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times and spying on her neighbors. It's been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside as agoraphobia took hold of her. Anna's lifeline to the world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something and now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe a wine soaked agoraphobic.
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

I have seen endless reviews about this book and I am always curious when a book is co- authored. I mean how does that happen – Do the authors come up with a plot together and then write a chapter each or do they sit together and write everyday until the book is finished? What do they do when they disagree? It must take enormous strength and reserve not to want your characters to be exactly who you want them to be and to share their creation with another.  I have started to read this and am hooked and halfway through at the first sitting so I can say it’s a page turner. Here are what the publishers say about it. "Vanessa and Richard fell deeply in love and were married for seven years – until he left her for another woman, someone younger and more desirable. She now spends her days immersed in painful memories, trying to decipher how it all went so wrong. Of course, she isn’t blameless, she was never the woman Richard thought she was, ‘A clever thriller with masterful twists’ Karin Slaughter. When you read this book, you will make many assumptions. It’s about a jealous wife, obsessed with her replacement. It’s about a younger woman set to marry the man she loves. The first wife seems like a disaster; her replacement is the perfect woman. You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships." You will be wrong.

The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days By Juliet Conlin.

I stumbled across this on Kindle and it was free and like most things we don’t pay for we assume it will be worth little but I loved this heart-warming tale of Alfred’s unusual life.  Alfred Warner, nee Werner he was born in Germany. He has been witness to the persecution of Jews and the rise of the Nazi party. He was a POW in a camp in Scotland and has lived in the UK up until 6 days before his death when he arrives back in Germany. The journey is for the purpose of meeting his granddaughter Brynja, the two have never met. The narrator of the story is Julia, she comes across Alfred while he is a little confused and lonely. She helps him in a way she could never have imagined. The story leads from the just before Julia meets Brynja back to Brynja’s childhood and told over the six days that Julia will know both of them. The story is heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking. It covers all the things that a person may go through in their life, with the exception that Alfred has a little something extra. It is beautifully written and passes backwards and forwards through the characters histories. I didn’t want to say goodbye to Alfred but all good things come to an end and that is very true of this book.
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
I heard about this book through The Graham Norton Show and was pleased that it found its way into book club. I took it out the month that I was packing to come here knowing that a book of short stories would be ideal as there would be no pressure to finish the whole book – just the story I was reading but I found that I wanted to finish the book – I really enjoyed the stories. Mr Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor and, when interviewed just seems an all round great guy! I expected the stories to be anecdotes of his acting career but most are pure tales of fiction and others, I think a combination of memoir and imagination.  A hectic, funny sexual affair between two best friends, a World War II veteran dealing with his emotional and physical scars. A second-rate actor plunged into sudden stardom and a whirlwind press junket. A small-town newspaper columnist with old-fashioned views of the modern world.  A woman adjusting to life in a new neighborhood after her divorce. Four friends going to the moon and back in a rocket ship constructed in the backyard.  A teenage surfer stumbling into his father’s secret life.  These are just some of the people and situations that Tom Hanks explores . The stories are linked by one thing: in each of them, a typewriter plays a part, sometimes minor, sometimes central.  A man of words either spoken or typed – Mr Hanks delights!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lost in translation.......

Books can transport you to another world, into another time and into someones life - and while I love being in my life and world I just love to experience life and our universe through the words of another. As I turn the pages, I allow my imagination to take me into the lives of the characters and not only has that broadened my horizons, its also given me a deep insight into understanding others, which for me is essential to a well lived life.Books this quarter have taken me to Poland, Germany, London, Australia and across various war zones!
So who have I met? Bookclub girls suggested I would love Karolina's Twins (Ronald H Balson) this month. I suspected it was a war story and there would be sadness. "Take it - you will love it," they said. So I took it not expecting to - but I loved it! I was invited to enter into the life of Lena Woodward, an elderly Holocaust survivor, who is on a quest to fulfill a promise to find two infant sisters who she last saw being thrown from a train as it journeyed to a Nazi death camp in Poland. She employs a lawyer and a private detective to assist her as her only son threatens to get her declared delusional and suffering from dementia. It is a story of survival, love and resilience and the importance of family and of forgiveness and it is beautifully written.
I was travelling though Namibia late last year and short of something to read so I scoured my Kindle and came across a book I had downloaded some time ago. The title is deceiving, The Secret Ministry of Ag. & Fish: My Life in Churchill's School for Spies, written by Noreen Riols." My mother thought that I was working for the Ministry of Agriculture.' so being's Noreen's memoir. She was in fact involved in work so secret that it is only in the past ten years that she has been able to declare what she did for the war effort and just how important her unit's work was. Receiving her call-up papers on her 18th birthday, she chose to joining the WRENS because she liked the uniform, she was almost immediately recruited into a secret unit who supported the French Resistance fighting the allied cause and their important work particularly in getting British airmen who were shot down to get back home. She acted as a decoy and master of disguise in Churchill's spy school and her job was to test the spies who were trained to support this cause. One of her female colleagues used to sleep with them before they went 'over' so they could be assured that they didn't talk in their sleep and worse speak in English in their sleep which would have seen them tortured and killed. A fascinating and yes - sometimes harrowing read about the atrocities of war and the treatment of spies who were caught by the Nazis. I did at times weep at the cruelty of war, but I also rejoiced at their triumphs, laughed at some of the witty and unbelievable stories and was in awe of their bravery. A roller coaster of emotions as I sped through the flat landscape of Namibia - and not the best book to read in a German speaking country! What a woman - I was so glad to be able to make her acquaintance and learn of her secret war and of the sterling work that she has done since.
There is another book out in the Seven Sisters Series, Lucinda Riley, that I enjoyed while I was on holiday in the US over Christmas. I am enjoying reading the stories of these adopted sisters as they trace their birth families. The Pearl Sister, is the fourth book of the series and transported me back to the 19th century into Australia and the equivalent of the gold rush but in the lucrative trade of pearls. CeCe travels from the coast into the Australian outback to trace her roots to the Aboriginal people and discovers where her artistic talents come from. These books are well researched and just so easy to get lost in and I am enjoying the continuity as each sister steps out to find her own history and yet the family bonds to one another remain strong. Again I am loving the characters, the history that I am learning and of course the descriptions of places I am yet to visit.  They each long for a sense of belonging and an identity that I am sure resounds with an adopted child. I cant wait for the next one!

Then I met Eleanor Oliphant in "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman.
Eleanor, by contrast, leads a simple life, wears the same clothes to work each day and eats the same meal each evening and drinks two bottles of vodka each weekend. She is a lonely young woman living an old persons lonely life - an odd ball, laughed at at work - she is surviving barely. Her past holds a dark secret and you soon lose your heart to this fragile woman wearing a brave mask. I have known one or two, "Eleanors" I like people who live life in their own unique way. This Eleanor's life is changed by an act of kindness which gets her involved with an old man - very much loved by his family - a situation she has never found herself in! A lovely tale, beautifully told - you will want to rescue Eleanor and save her from herself. It is a No.1 best selling Sunday Times book and a stunning debut novel.

I have also enjoyed John Simpson's collection of  short stories "Twenty Tales from the War Zone". Simpson has fifty years experience as a journalist reporting from the front line and I enjoy his anecdotes and his clever style of reporting. He always features in the British Airways in flight magazine and I have usually read his article before take off! This is the perfect book to read in airports, waiting rooms and while ubering! Well written and quick reads.

I indulged in a kindle 99p book too called Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys. Light 'chic-lit' reading and worth a pound of any one's money!

The novel that I have just started in set in the US, The Balitmore Boys by Joel Dicker - a good start! The journey continues.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I am in a happy place - at a farm overlooking mountains, the sun is shining and all is well. I am relaxed and this is much needed downtime and a chance to catch up with me blog and tell you what I have been reading and also what bookclub are enjoying.
I last told you of my enjoyment of The Tea Planters Daughter by Janet Macleod which was a bargain from Amazon Kindle - well I found two more in the series and enjoyed them both, The Tea Planters Bride and The Girl from the Tea Garden. All set in both the UK and India in a time of gentle living, fine manners and family feuds. Very entertaining and really good stories. I love tea but I had to move on!
From Bookclub I have read A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline who wrote Orphan Train which I really enjoyed.
 This book was well researched and brilliantly written - a technical masterpiece .... but it just didn't captivate me.  The story was inspired by a painting by an American artist Andrew Wyeth called 'Christina's World' and captures the life of a young woman who suffered from a degenerative illness and it is set in a farmhouse in Cushing Maine. Its a working farm and her family all work hard barely to keep themselves. A bright girl - Christina is forced to leave school to help out at home - with no electricity or running water - life is harsh and her disability makes it harsher. She is pitied by family and neighbours and she hates this. Her life is changed when a group of friends bring a young man home for the holidays and she dares to believe that he loves her and she falls in love with him - however his family will not let it be and the truth is that he doesn't fight very hard to let her go. she faces a harsh future alone with her much older brother to bring in money they rent a room to an artist and she becomes his muse. The artist spends the next decade or so staying with them each summer and she becomes the model for his famous painting which evokes a sense of mystery and curiosity in all who view it.

I enjoyed Circling the Sun by Paula Maclain. In fact I loved this book - and 'flew' through it in three days as I knew nothing about Beryl Markham - the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic but found her a fascinating subject for a biography. She was raised by her father in Kenya and the book details her family life, lovers and marriages.  The book details life in Colonial Kenya and the eccentric people that were attracted by the prospect of farming and fortunes to be made. It has made me want to read her actual biography.

Bookclub have also enjoyed "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty - I bought this book as the book I had ordered for my bookclub buy arrived in Singapore a day after I left so I had to make a quick choice and I had read that Nicole Kidman and Reece Wetherspoon were so impressed with this novel that they bought the rights immediately and made it into a series. I haven't read it but Shakespeare's Sisters say its gripping and unputdownable! I binge watched the series on a long haul flight and the storyline kept me guessing to the very last five minutes so I guess the book keeps its secret right to the end. You don't even know who the victim is never mind the murderer until the last  minute!
This is what an Amazon reviewer had to say about it - "I rarely write reviews, but I have to for this book. It is just too good. It is not a mystery. You know someone dies. It is not a crime novel. It is a novel about women and people. There are three main characters, all mothers with kindergarten children in the same school. They are all so different, but so vividly portrayed in all their goodness and their flaws. You wish you knew them. The scene where the death actually occurs is so wonderfully written that I had to read it twice. Sounds odd, doesn't it, but you will understand when you read it. The book is so clever and so witty."

The next two books were recommendations from my niece and both were enjoyable although set worlds apart in different centuries. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is a modern masterpiece from one of Italy's most acclaimed authors. It a rich and intense story of two friends Elena and Lila set in the 1950s in a poor and vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples where they journey from infant hood through the complications of puberty and ultimately marriage. Lila is the brighter of the two and the most streetwise but circumstances force her to abandon her education but she still coaches Elena to excellence at school where her ambition is to have her words published. They hero worship a man from the village who achieved the unthinkable by having a book of poetry published. They imagine him living a rich and expensive life until he returns and rekindles a dark secret known by some in the village. Beautiful descriptions and great insight into the vulnerability of youth.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry on the other hand, is set in Britain in the 1890s is about life, beliefs and love, science and religion, secrets and mystery. It reminded me of Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chivalier both novels are set in a time of Victorian passion for collecting fossils along the Essex coast and their heroines strong women choosing to live differently enjoying the 'manish' pursuit of ammonites. Great characters and a love story with many twists and turns - It is a worthy winner of Britain's Best Book of the Year.

Last but not least my best read 'The Girl from Simons Bay' by Barbara Mutch. Just one of those books that you don't want to end. Local is lekker and this books tells the story of a seashell and a sealed letter that form a tenuous connection to a forbidden wartime romance.  1937 and Simons Town is a vibrant and diverse community with a Royal Navy port at the towns heart. Louise Ahrendts daughter of a shipbuilder nurtures her dream of becoming a nurse in a world of unwritten and unspoken rules about colour. She has the talent and the courage to make it a reality. At the outbreak of the 2nd WW Louise crosses paths with a man she longs to be with despite all the obstacles and conflict that life throws at them. A really beautiful story - My only complaint was that it ended!

Also read 'In Order to Live' by Yeonmi Park - a harrowing story of a young girls escape from North Korea.


Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Coombson - a light read with an interesting twist by this author who always weaves interracial relationships into her stories.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bon Voyage!

I travel a lot - I like to travel and see new places. I think my recent reading reflects this as I have read about a Coffee Shop in Kabul while on a plane to Singapore - I have read about the Quality of Silence in a environmental mystery while on the plane to South Africa. I have enjoyed the romance of being a Tea Planters Daughter in India while staying in the Cape and the joys on board The Little Paris Bookshop set on a barge in France from my garden in Port Elizabeth. But I will start with a grand novel written in the 80s set in Singapore before and during the Japanese occupation, which I read in Singapore!

"The Malay words for red earth are tana merah and I deem this to be the perfect name for a house which will, I hope, be home to our family for generations to come."

Dexter is an old family name in Singapore - Grandpa Jack arrived int eh late 1800s and built a huge financial empire out of real estate rubber and tin, Tanamera begins in 1830 and is focused  around  grandson John and his love affair with Julie - a half Chinese daughter of wealthy neighbours - but interrelations are out of the question and they prepare to face a future without each other. The war comes and things change dramatically for the colonial life in Singapore and for the Dexters. This sweeping epic was great to read while in Singapore as many of the streets and buildings remain. I was interested to understand the history of Singapore and its peoples and how they experienced life during the Japanese occupation. Its an old book and it was made into a TV series and I can see why - the story brings history alive on its pages and i loved it and left Singapore richer for reading it!

Deborah Rodriguez has captured the nuances of daily life of the  people of Kabul in a remarkable coffee shop in the middle of Afghanistan. Thrown together by circumstances, bonded by secrets and united in friendship it is a charming story of Sunny and the love of her life - her coffee shop! It's pitched as a cup of friendship but I found this cuppa too sweet for my liking - after a promising start with Yazmina - orphaned daughter from rural Afghanistan - being abducted and sold into a sordid life of human trafficking - I thought I had another Kite Runner in my hands but sadly it didn't do it for me. Having said that, most of my bookclub loved this book  and it comes well recommended from Amazon and Good Reads. i  felt it had the potential to be  darker, stronger and slightly bitter - the way I enjoy my coffee - less cappuccino and more espresso!

The Little Paris Bookshop - From the Jacket...........

Monsieur Perdu can prescribe the perfect book for a broken heart. But can he fix his own?
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives. I enjoyed it - a light easy read - well written - great characters and set in France - pure escapism!

The Quality of Silence is a page turner set in Alaska and tells the story of a wife who refuses to believe that her husband has been killed in an explosion and fire at a gas mining settlement in the midst of the frozen Tundra. She sets off to find him with their deaf daughter Ruby and finds herself being stalked by a menacing vehicle hellbent on preventing them. Its a story of industrial espionage and you really don't know who is on whose side until the final pages. Its a story for today - I loved the topic and the gutsy heroine and the beautifully captured language of a small girl who has never heard the words. Great read! 

I took a chance with The Tea Planters Daughter - I liked the jacket and it popped up in my Amazon feed so I bought it for 99p. I enjoyed it and just downloaded the sequel- The Tea Planters Bride- another 99p investment! Set in India and then in Newcastle, it really reminded me of those dramatic Catherine Cookson novels which were addictive reading in the 80s. A strong female heroine - a wicked family and a tall dark handsome man in pursuit - all the right ingredients for an enjoyable 'soapie'. It was a great holiday read and I love novels set in India - I seem to be on an Indian treasure hunt at the moment as I enjoyed the British TV series Indian Summers and am currently enjoying the BBC documentary of The Real Marigold Hotel. Viceroy is a film I am looking forward to seeing too ........and tonight I had curry for supper so things are hotting up! 

So you see - you can travel the world from your armchair - Bon Voyage!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Local is lekker

I love finding a new author and when they are local then that's even better. Most of the books we read are set in the States or the UK or penned by authors from there and its so lovely to read words that are unique to your country and that are set in places you have travelled to. In fact I make a point of reading books set in the country I am holidaying in - I read Wilbur Smiths "The River God" in Egypt and Christie's "Death on the Nile", I read a thriller called, Mud, Muck and Dead Things by Anne Granger in the Cotswold's and Eucalyptus by Murray Bail in Melbourne.

So I found myself tucked up in bed with Tannie Maria and her Recipes for Love and Murder on a guest farm in the Karoo last month. A debut novel by Sally Andrews - I devoured every morsel.
It's set in Ladysmith in the Karoo and tells the story of aunty or 'Tannie' Maria who works in the small newspaper office as a food columnist. Her life changes when the editor is told to scrap her column for an advice column - you remember those interesting problem pages written by 'agony aunts' - then you get the picture. Tannie Maria loves food and decides that her delicious boer kos (farm food) can cure any problem and so she dispenses advice and recipes! She ends up in the middle of a murder investigation. You cannot help but relate to this character - everyone has an aunty like this in their lives and she is delightful. The book is a real page turner full of suspense and funny at the same time and there are real recipes that you want to try out too!
In  quick succession came Tanie Maria and the Satanic Mechanic and I expected to be disappointed but I am loving it. Not reading it in the Karoo but my mind is so there when I open the book. The second book features many of her characters from the first one and you get to know them and her better as a completely new mystery unfolds. Keep them coming Sally - our bookclub is loving them!

I seem to be in a rural roll as bookclub also enjoying a book called "The Trouble with Goats and Sheep' but this one is set in the UK and all the action takes place not in a rural town but in an industrial street. Mrs Creasy is missing as as the English summer holidays stretch endlessly ahead, ten year old Grace and Tilly become junior detectives determined to find out what happened to her. The neighbours are harbouring a secret from a decade ago and as the real police investigations into Mrs Creasy;s disappearance proceed, they become increasingly worried about what skeletons may pop out of the cupboard! Its a lightish summer read written in a naive style (which I personally don't much enjoy) but the story is sound and the characters dark and interesting, and if you grew up in England in the 60s and 70s then you will enjoy a trip down memory lane as I did.
Its a real feast for sequels and series and Lucinda Riley's 3rd book is out "The Shadow Sister" in the Seven Sister series.
Its sitting on my Kindle waiting for me so I can only go by reviews read here. It promises to be as good as the previous two in the series and I know I will love it as its set in Cumbria and in an antique bookshop in London - by all accounts the mysterious housekeeper, Flora's, story is entwined in this book too.
I have started another Lucinda Riley book, The Italian Girl (I hadn't realised she had written so many), but Tannie Maria and a bed in the Karoo with a crocheted coverlet beckoned me so I have yet to go back to it!
Not a book but a film - The Girl on the Train was released last month and was an excellent adaptation of Paula Hawkin's book. Its not often that the film lives up to the expectations created by the word but happily this one did.
If you are looking for other reading ideas for your down time in December then Good Reads https://www.goodreads.com have some great ideas on their site.

Please Please share your bookclub's favourite books by commenting here. Its difficult to choose sometimes and books are so expensive - its a costly mistake to make buying a dud!

Bookclub Christmas parties are in preparation all over the place and ours is Christmas by the Sea this year! Enjoy yours ...........

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A good book, a comfy chair and plenty of quiet time is a great combination!

It a long time since I have had time to sit and read quietly for hours but Vs illness and isolation have meant that he just wants a presence at his bedside and not necessarily conversation, and there being a lazy boy recliner in there, I have been able to read and read and read some more. After months of snatching a chapter before bed or a few pages in a break,  I had forgotten the pleasure of reading a book almost in one sitting and getting completely lost in a story. Bliss!
What I have enjoyed......
I am currently reading YEAR of WONDERS by Geraldine Brook. Bookclub loved her novel PEOPLE of the BOOK and I stumbled across this earlier novel by chance. Its a wonderful read (and very cheap on Amazon Kindle)
The novel is set in an English village in the year 1666 - the year of the Great Plague of London. Plague is carried to their village through a bolt of cloth and as every household is affected, Anna, the main character, emerges as unlikely heroine and healer. As the plague sweeps through the village bringing death to each household the villages turn from prayers to murderous witch hunting. As Anna struggles to survive and grow - a year of catastrophe becomes a year of wonders! It is based on the true story of the village of Eyam and is wonderfully researched and written in the style of the day. I am loving each page and can barely wait for my hours in the lazyboy tomorrow when I know the year of wonders will come to an end!

Before this I read two 'big' books. Each with over 600 pages which I would never tackle mid year normally but again - the blessing of an isolation ward and a comfy chair have made this possible, For author, Lucinder Riley, this is a seven book project and having read the first two book I am looking forward to number three! Each book is set to tell the story of seven sisters adopted as babies in unusual circumstances by their wealthy 'father' a mysterious man they know as Pa Salt. The first book THE SEVEN SISTERS starts with them gathered at their home on the shores of Lake Geneva as they mourn his death and each one of them is left geographical coordinates and a letter with clues to their identity. The first sister Maia traces her birthplace to South America and a crumbling mansion in Rio ......and so unravels the fascinating history of her biological family. As this novel ends so it links to the second sister, Ally -THE STORM SISTER - who is a talented yachtswoman and realises she stumbled across her fathers burial at sea - not knowing that is what was happening when she encounters his yacht moored off the coast and before she has had the news of his death. Ally's clues to her birthplace see her abandoning her ocean racing career to explore the icy beauty of Norway and Grieg's Peer Gynt suite to explore her other gift - her musical talent - and her links to a talented and yet unknown young singer and another compelling story unfolds.
When I heard Maggie O Farrel had a new book out I pre-ordered it and just on time it appeared on my Kindle like magic. She is one of my favourite authors and I have read everything she has written and have never been disappointed. Her latest novel, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, is her finest yet and is that rare literary beast - technically dazzling and deeply moving.It leaps effortlessly across continents, relationships and time frames and at its centre is a story about people who are lost, flawed and troubled as they struggle to connect with those that they love. The main character is Daniel Sullivan, an Irish American linguistics lecturer, who at the start of the book is living with his reclusive, ex movie star wife, Claudette in the isolated Donegal countryside. He is on the way to his fathers 90th birthday when he hears something on the radio which mentions the fate of an old girlfriend from decades ago and this sends him careering across continents and into his past - a quest that threatens his marriage and his sanity and the very threads that hold his life together. The story is woven like an intricate tapestry and one cannot help but be impressed by the authors use of perspective, grammatical tense and style as each chapter is narrated by a different charachter and their point of view. Brilliant is the only word to describe her writing and ability to hold the reader in her hand.

I have also enjoyed ORPHAN NUMBER 8 by Kim Van Alkemade, a fasinatng story inspired by true events, of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when encountering the woman who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments when she was in a Jewish New York orphanage some years before. The book also contains actual photographs and records of the orphanage run by the Jewish church in New York during the depression which makes the story more believable and the choice more real. Excellent read!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

We lose ourselves in books and we find ourselves in there too!

2016 and a whole new year of books await. December and January, being the main holiday season here, lends itself to relaxation and reading - whether on the beach or while travelling. I have had a good holiday and enjoyed losing myself in stories and worlds created by books and I never fail to find a little piece of myself in there too!

The Collected Works of AJ Fikry
This is set within an isolated community living on an island - here lives AJ Fikry a traditional bookstore owner, widowed and as isolated as the island. One day a baby is left in his store bearing  note asking that he looks after her and ensure she is brought up surrounded by books -  and his life changes forever. The book also gives insight to the cut throat world of publishing and of reading and how books connect people. Fikry says that you learn all you need to know about a person by asking them one question, "What is your favourite book?" It;s a lovely moving story spanning two decades and you really want to know what happens to A J Fikry, his 'daughter' and the characters in the community that are woven into the story. An enjoyable read by Gabrielle Zavin.

A God in Ruins
Kate Atkinson's dazzling and complex novel Life After Life outsold every book in the UK last year apart from Gone Girl and Dan Brown's Inferno. A God in Ruins tells the story from the viewpoint of one character, Teddy, a young man who signs up as a bomber pilot in 1939 and who is shot down and declared missing presumed dead. Astonishingly he turns up in 1945 having spent the last year of the war in a prisoner of war camp. The novel is wonderfully researched and gives great insight in to what it must have been like to be a pilot in the second world war and given that 90% of them didn't survive the war - Teddy is most surprised to emerge alive and well. He returns to civilian life and marries his childhood sweetheart, Nancy, and loves her in a robust and dependable way. He settles for a career as a school teacher and a journalist and a life of ordinariness, A God in Ruins was particularly poignant for me as my own father was a Lancaster pilot during the war and his family were RAF through and through - my grandfather having been awarded the DFC and the DCO for bravery in his magnificent flying machine in WW1. We witness Teddy ageing, becoming widowed and being at the mercy of his difficult daughter Viola in his old age and your heart bleeds for him and the many others like him who gave their everything for Queen and country but were cast aside in civilian life. A fascinating story, brilliantly written by one of the greatest authors of our time.

Up against the Night

Justin Cartright is a Africa author living in London and I have enjoyed his previous books. His work is well written and he has the rarest of talents of being able to write serious fiction which encompasses the strangeness and comedy of life. The main character, Frank, is a descendant of Piet Rietief who was murdered by the Zulu King. Frank is about to visit South Africa with his lover Nellie and his daughter is arriving from the States where she has been in rehab. Franks Afrikaner cousin is becoming disillusioned and desperate about his life in South Africa with the undercurrents of violence and racial tension. As the story unfolds against a backdrop of Table Mountain and the winelands, the mystery around his daughter's holiday guest, the chaotic and volatile life of his Afrikaner cousin combined with the gentle love he has for Nellie all entwine to create a fascinating story. Up Against the Night is a brilliant and subtle novel about South Africa and its beautiful landscape, its violent past and its uncertain future.

Summer at the Lake by Erica James
A perfect beach or holiday read - not all challenging, perfectly relaxing and yet a story interesting enough to want to pick it up and start reading. Lake Como - romantic, enchanting and beautiful and for Floriana its is where the love of her life is marrying another woman and she has been invited to the wedding. For Esme its where she fell in love for the first time over 60 years ago to a man destined to become a priest. Their unlikely friendship takes them there with Adam who is in danger of burying himself in his work since his girlfriend left him. Will Lake Como weave her magic and heal all three of these characters. The answer is ............read the book and find out! I recently read The Dandelion years, the latest book by the same author and found it just as delightfully relaxing!

All the Light we Cannot See.
A real bookclub favourite and winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2014. A beautifully told story about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as they both try to survive WW2. Doerr skillfully weaves the stories of Marie Laure, the blind daughter of a museum curator who has built her a detailed model of the city they live in to help her navigate her way through it, and Werner, a German orphan with an extraordinary talent for radios that throws him into the Nazi regime of the Hilter Youth Academy and into battle at a young age. Their lives converge when the Nazis are searching for a most valuable and dangerous jewel that was in the museum collection and Werner is sent to the small town in France where they believe it is hidden. It's a sad and deeply moving story of lost youth, cruelties of war and the ways which people valiantly survive against the odds and  try to be good to one another. It took ten years to write and I believe each sentence is a masterpiece!

So a really great literally end to 2015 and my bookpile is waiting for 2016 - I have just started Lisa Genova's new book Inside the O'Brians and looking forward to getting lost again!