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BOOK REVIEW: PERFECT BY RACHEL JOYCE

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Perfect by Rachel Joyce
Black Swan (Paperback), 2013
448 Pages

Author’s Website

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Summer, 1972: In the claustrophobic heat, eleven-year-old Byron and his friend begin ‘Operation Perfect’, a hapless mission to rescue Byron’s mother from impending crisis.

Winter, present day: As frost creeps across the moor, Jim cleans tables in the local café, a solitary figure struggling with OCD. His job is a relief from the rituals that govern his nights.
Little would seem to connect them except that two seconds can change everything.

And if your world can be shattered in an instant, can time also put it right?

EXTRACT

In 1972, two seconds were added to time. Britain agreed to join the Common Market, and ‘Beg, Steal or Borrow’ by the New Seekers was the entry for Eurovision. The seconds were added because it was a leap year and time was out of joint with the movement of the Earth. The New Seeks did not win the Eurovision Song Contest but that had nothing to do with the earth’s movement and nothing to do with the two seconds either.

REVIEW

Rachel Joyce is also the author of a book I read recently, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

I loved Perfect. Joyce offers one of those rare novels that are much more than the sum of its parts. At the surface, Perfect appears to be quite light and almost frivolous in parts. There is darkness lurking beneath and this gradually bubbles to the surface. Perfect is a beautiful but sad novel. My heart ached for poor Byron/Jim and how his childhood loss fractured his young life and broke his sanity. I had a good cry at the end when the two boys are reunited as old men. Perfect is the sort of novel that grabs a hold of your heart and gives it a good hug. I would highly recommend this novel.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
 

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BOOK REVIEW: A STORM OF SWORDS 1: STEEL AND SNOW (A SONG OF ICE & FIRE #3.1) BY GEORGE R.R. MARTIN

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A Storm of Swords 1: Steel and Snow (A Song of Ice and Fire #3.1) by George R.R. Martin
Harper Voyager (Paperback), 2000
569 Pages

Author Website

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Winter approaches Westeros like an angry beast.

The Seven Kingdoms are divided by revolt and blood feud. In the northern wastes, a horde of hungry, savage people steeped in the dark magic of the wilderness is poised to invade the Kingdom of the North where Robb Stark wears his new-forged crown. And Robb’s defences are ranged against the South, the land of the cunning and cruel Lannisters, who have his young sisters in their power.

Throughout Westeros, the war for the Iron Throne rages more fiercely than ever, but if the Wall is breached, no king will live to claim it.

EXTRACT

An east wind blew through his tangled hair, as soft and fragrant as Cersei’s fingers. He could hear birds singing, and feel the river moving beneath the boat as the sweep of the oars sent them toward the pale pink dawn. After so long in darkness, the world was so sweet that Jaime Lannister felt dizzy. I am alive, and drunk on sunlight. A laugh burst from his lips, sudden as a quail flushed from cover.

REVIEW

I loved Steel and Snow, the first part of A Storm of Swords. I am now a total Game of Thrones fan gal. In a few weeks’ time I plan to buy the DVD’s for the TV show. I don’t have SKY or NowTV and I refuse to pay a couple of quid per episode to view on Xbox Live so DVD’s it is. Steel and Snow doesn’t continue on from A Clash of Kings but picks off towards the end of the last novel. I got to read a lot more of Dany in this book which is good because she’s one of my favourite characters. I’ve started to warm towards Tyrion but I really hope someone cuts of Cersei’s betraying head. I’m still undecided whether I love or hate Jaime. Steel and Snow is as packed with as much drama as A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. My jaw hit the floor several times least of all when Sansa Sark was married off to Tyrion and when Catelyn is told Bran and Rickon are dead. I now have a list of things I hope will happen in the next books. Will Arya and Sansa ever been reunited with Catelyn? Will Catelyn ever find out Bran and Rickon are alive? When will Dany’s dragons kick ass and burn things to the ground? Will someone punch Cersei in the face or cut off her head? I can’t wait to read Blood and Gold the second part of A Storm of Swords.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
 

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BOOK REVIEW: THE JOY LUCK CLUB BY AMY TAN

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The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Vintage (Paperback), 1989
288 Pages

Author’s Website

This book is part of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015. The category for this book is ‘a book set in a different country’.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue.

With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.

EXTRACT

The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum. This bird, boasted the market vendor, was once a duck that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose, and now look! – It is too beautiful to eat.

REVIEW

This is my first time reading Amy Tan. I loved The Joy Luck Club. It was a lovely book. I really enjoyed the structure of the novel. The novel is split into sections with so many chapters per section. The first chapter establishes what The Joy Luck Club actually is and the other chapters are various tales the women tell each other around the table. Some of the tales are about the women and the other tales are about their daughters. The Joy Luck Club is a book that deals with experience of Chinese immigrants and their daughters. I loved the way Tan explores cultural disjoints and fragmented, fractured lives. Some of the women’s experiences are really quite heart-breaking. I found the contrast of the mother and daughter’s experience quite sad. The daughters were raised in a Western society and painfully removed from their mother’s often sad and harrowing experiences. This disconnection is the core of the novel. I’d recommend The Joy Luck Club to anyone. I want to read more of Tan’s work.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 

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Book Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

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THE SILKWORM BY ROBERT GALBRAITH
SPHERE (PAPERBACK), 2014
580 PAGES

Author’s Website

BLURB FROM THE COVER

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

EXTRACT

‘Someone bloody famous’, said the hoarse voice on the end of the line, ‘better’ve died Strike’.

The large unshaven man tramping through the darkness of pre-dawn, with his telephone clamped to his ear, grinned.

‘It’s in that ballpark’.

REVIEW

This is my first time reading Galbraith, J.K Rowling’s pseudonym. I really enjoyed The Silkworm. One of my favourite sub genres of crime fiction is the detective novel (i.e. Charlie Parker novels by John Connolly). I really warmed to Strike’s character. I haven’t read the first Strike novel and had no idea he’d lost part of one leg until he takes off his prophesies a couple of hundred pages in. I’m glad Galbraith didn’t make Strike’s disability a sympathy stick to beat people over the head with. I thought the plot was original. I love it when a writer uses characters who are writers. The writer in me finds this fascinating. I had no idea who killed Quine. I love it when a writer surprises me. The only criticism I have of The Silkworm is that I thought it was overly long and dragged a bit in the middle. I could have happily lost a hundred pages in the middle. I’ll probably read The Cuckoo’s Calling. The Silkworm was a great read.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 
1 Comment

Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Fiction, Library, Novel, Robert Galbraith

 

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Book Review: How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran

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HOW TO BUILD A GIRL BY CAITLIN MORAN
EBURY PRESS (PAPERBACK), 2014
352 PAGES

Author’s Website

BLURB FROM THE COVER

My name’s Johanna Morrigan. I’m fourteen, and I’ve just decided to kill myself.

I don’t really want to die, of course! I just need to kill Johanna, and build a new girl. Dolly Wilde will be everything I want to be, and more! But as with all the best coming-of-age stories, it doesn’t exactly go to plan…

EXTRACT

I am lying in bed, next to my brother Lupin.

He is six years old. He is asleep.

I am fourteen. I am not asleep. I am masturbating.

I look at my brother and think nobly, ‘This is what he would want. He would want me to be happy’.

After all, he loves me. He wouldn’t want me to be stressed. And I love him – although I must stop thinking about him while I’m masturbating. It feels wrong. I am trying to get my freak on. I can’t have siblings wandering into my sexual hinterland. We may share a bed tonight – he left his bunk at midnight crying, and got in next to me – but we cannot share a sexual hinterland. He needs to leave my consciousness.

REVIEW

This was my first time reading Caitlin Moran.

I loved How to Build a Girl. Moran offers the perfect coming-of-age story. How to Build a Girl is funny, filthy and incredibly sad at times. I loved the character of Johanna/Dolly. She was a girl after my own heart – fat, bookish, desperate to fit in but who never quite does. The last chunk of the novel is quite emotional as Johanna realises she’s become completely lost in Dolly and that Dolly isn’t really someone she wants to be anymore. Joanna thought she was having a blast as Dolly writing for D&ME magazine and having lots of sex. However, Dolly’s only value came from being an enormous slut and someone’s bit of rough. The novel has a happy ending though without being insipid.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 

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Book Review: The Assassination Of Margaret Thatcher And Other Stories by Hilary Mantel

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THE ASSASSINATION OF MARGARET THATCHER AND OTHER STORIES BY HILARY MANTEL
4TH ESTATE (HARDBACK), 2015
158 PAGES

Author’s Website

This book is part of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015. The category for this book is ‘a book of short stories’.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

A brilliant – and rather transgressive – collection of short stories from the double Man Booker Prize-winning author of ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’.

Hilary Mantel is one of Britain’s most accomplished and acclaimed writers. In these ten bracingly subversive tales, all her gifts of characterisation and observation are fully engaged, summoning forth the horrors so often concealed behind everyday façades. Childhood cruelty is played out behind the bushes in ‘Comma’; nurses clash in ‘Harley Street’ over something more than professional differences; and in the title story, staying in for the plumber turns into an ambiguous and potentially deadly waiting game.

Whether set in a claustrophobic Saudi Arabian flat or on a precarious mountain road in Greece, these stories share an insight into the darkest recesses of the spirit. Displaying all of Mantel’s unmistakable style and wit, they reveal a great writer at the peak of her powers.

EXTRACT

In those days, the doorbell didn’t ring often, and if it did I would draw back into the body of the house. (SORRY TO DISTURB)

REVIEW

Mantel is one of my favourite writers thanks to Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies and A Place of Greater Safety. This is the first time I’ve read her short fiction.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is a strong collection of stories. I thoroughly enjoyed every one. I did have my favourites. Sorry to Disturb reminds me of her novel Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. Comma was a brilliant story about the cruelty of children and how friendship can sometimes be twisted. Winter Break gave me chills with its rather sinister ending suggesting the couple’s driver knocked down and killed a child en-route and hid the body in the trunk. The Heart Fails without Warning is the saddest story I’ve ever read about eating disorders. The title story was also pretty great. I’d highly recommend this collection of stories. I hope Mantel’s next release is the final book in her trilogy about Thomas Cromwell.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 

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Book Review: All The Good People I’ve Left Behind by Joyce Carol Oates

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ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE I’VE LEFT BEHIND BY JOYCE CAROL OATES
BLACK SPARROW PRESS (HARDBACK), 1979
227 PAGES

Author’s Website

BLURB FROM THE COVER

All The Good People I’ve Left Behind is Joyce Carol Oates’s twelfth collection of short stories. The collection features ten stories including The Leap, The Tryst and Walled City.

EXTRACT

Could escape by way of the window. Could climb out onto the ledge… take hold of one of the vines… shake it to test its strength… rotten? No?… And climb cautiously down the side of the building… slowly, slowly. Four storeys. New unsuspected strength in the fingers. In the muscles of the arms and shoulders. Feet grasping prayer like. Splinters? Thorns? Sudden breaking of the vine? Below, people have gathered to stare. Look! There’s one of them escaping! Escaping her own death! (THE LEAP)

REVIEW

JCO is one of my favourite writers. This is my first time reading All the Good People I’ve Left Behind. I’m working my way through JCO’s back catalogue. There’s a lot I haven’t read.

I enjoyed this early collection of JCO’s short fiction. Each of the ten stories was new to me and I read them for the first time. This made a nice change. The last few collections of her stories I’ve read have contained stories I’ve read a few times that have been published in multiple collections. It was nice to read completely brand new stuff. The stories within All the Good People I’ve Left Behind aren’t JCO’s best or worst but lie somewhere between both, a little closer to best. There are recurring characters that appear in more than one story which I thought was a nice touch. Overall this is a strong collection of stories.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 

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