Elizabeth Is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
Published by Penguin
Paperback
Published 1 January 2015
275 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book with a red spine’.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten. Still, the notes about Elizabeth nag at her. When was the last time she spoke with her best friend? It feels like ages ago…

Frustratingly, no one seems willing to help Maud find her: not the police nor Elizabeth’s son – not even Maud’s own daughter or granddaughter. It’s like they’re hiding something.

Maud resolves to take matters into her own hands, and begins digging for the truth. There are many clues, but unhelpfully, they all seem to point to another unsolved disappearance: that of Maud’s sister Sukey just after the war.

Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance lead Maud to the truth about Elizabeth? As Maud’s mind retreats into the past at a frightening pace, alienating her from her family and carers, vivid memories of what happened over fifty years ago come flooding back to give her quest new momentum. 

EXTRACT 

‘You know there was an old woman mugged around here?’ Carla says, letting her long, black ponytail snake over one shoulder.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I’m not completely sure how I feel about Elizabeth Is Missing. I was wavering between giving it a three or star but went with four stars in the end because it made me cry a little. This book isn’t what I was expecting and I didn’t like some of it. One issue I had is the way the book handles dementia. Maud’s dementia is quite far advanced. I felt she was at the stage when she couldn’t be left on her own. She was wandering out of the house and could easily have come to harm because she was so confused. I felt her family were neglectful of her at first. I thought Maud, however, was a great character, very realistic of someone with dementia. My gran, who’s been dead for sixteen years, had dementia. She came to live with my family when neighbours told my mum she was wandering the streets in her night-dress, looking for her dog that had died ten years before. Maud reminds me a lot of her. She’s a well written character. I found the narrative confusing at times. I didn’t mind that it moved back and forth in time. I like this structure in novels. It just wasn’t always clear what time we were in. I suppose this helped to convey Maud’s confusion but it could have been handed a bit better. The title is a misnomer – Elizabeth is not missing, it’s just Maud’s memories of her are missing and confused in her head with her sister’s disappearance thirty years before. I felt a little bit cheated. Never mind, Elizabeth Is Missing does involve a mystery, just now what I was expecting. There is a lot of misdirection, caused by Maud’s memory and I suppose it’s good the author went in an unexpected direction. I ended up really liking Elizabeth Is Missing and would recommend it.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Girl In The Steel Corset

The Girl In The Steel Corset

The Girl In The Steel Corset by Kady Cross
Published by MIRA Ink
Ebook
Published 1 January 2011
477 pages
Library book

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a steampunk novel’.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

In 1897 London, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the thing inside her. When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch. . . . Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret. Griffins investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help and finally be a part of something, finally fit in. But The Machinist wants to tear Griff’s little company of strays apart, and it isn’t long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she’s on even if it seems no one believes her.

EXTRACT

 London, The Age of Invention, late April 1897

‘You’re the very spawn of Satan and I’ll not have you darken this door ever again’.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I was going to say this was my first steampunk novel but that’s not true, I love The Lunar Chronicles. I thought The Girl in the Steel Corset was great. I was surprised that it was set in Victorian London and would have expected this kind of novel to be set in the future. But what do I know, eh? This novel has clearly been influenced by Frankenstein and I really enjoyed this take on it. It’s not the deepest and most profound novel I’ve ever read but it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it and there’s nothing wrong with that. I plan to read the series and would recommend this book.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Tale Of Despereaux

The Tale Of Despereaux

The Tale Of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Published by Candlewick Press
Ebook
Published 1 September 2009
148 pages
Library book

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book from a nonhuman perspective’.   

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

A brave mouse, a covetous rat, a wishful serving girl, and a princess named Pea come together in Kate DiCamillo’s Newbery Medal–winning tale.

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbours a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives. What happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

EXTRACT

THIS STORY BEGINS within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse. A small mouse. The last mouse born to his parents and the only one of his litter to be born alive.

WHAT I THOUGHT

The Tale of Despereaux didn’t work for me. I read a lot of children’s fiction so this wasn’t an issue for me. The characters are one dimensional – the goodies so perfect and wonderful it made me want to throw up and the baddies were a caricature of evil. I’m sure I’ve seen the film and really enjoyed it so expected more from the book. Despite the title, Despereaux only appears in about half the book so this was also a bit of a let-down. I found it annoying that the book is littered with asides to the ‘reader’ which kept pulling me out of the story. I also felt there was some content not suitable for young children; namely how one-dimensional and evil the rates were and the cruel way Miggery Sow is treated. The Tale of Despereaux was disappointing and did nothing for me.

RATING

2 STAR RATING

Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life

Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life

Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life by Joyce Carol Oates
Published by Ecco Press
Ebook
Published 20 September 2016
320 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book with career advice’.  

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

A new collection of critical and personal essays on writing, obsession, and inspiration from National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates.

“Why do we write?”

With this question, Joyce Carol Oates begins an imaginative exploration of the writing life, and all its attendant anxieties, joys, and futilities, in this new collection of seminal essays and criticism. Leading her quest is a desire to understand the source of the writer’s inspiration—do subjects haunt those that might bring them back to life until the writer submits? Or does something “happen” to us, a sudden ignition of a burning flame? Can the appearance of a muse-like other bring about a writer’s best work?

In Soul at the White Heat, Oates deploys her keenest critical faculties, conjuring contemporary and past voices whose work she deftly and creatively dissects for clues to these elusive questions. Virginia Woolf, John Updike, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, J.M. Coetzee, Margaret Atwood, Joan Didion, Zadie Smith and many others appear as predecessors and peers—material through which Oates sifts in acting as literary detective, philosopher, and student. The book is at its most thrilling when watching the writer herself at work, and Oates provides rare insight into her own process, in candid, self-aware dispatches from the author’s own writing room. The New York Times Book Review has raved, “Who better than Joyce Carol Oates . . . to explicate the craft of writing?” Longtime admirers of Joyce Carol Oates’s novels as well as her prose will discover much to be inspired by and obsess upon themselves in this inventive collection from an American master.

EXTRACT 

This is not a traditional lecture so much as the quest for a lecture in the singular – a quest constructed around a series of questions.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I thought Soul at the White Heat was great. This is the third Joyce Carol Oates book of non-fiction I’ve read and I loved it as much as the other two. I definitely need to read more of her non-fiction. As a writer myself, I loved Soul at the White Heat. As I reader, I love knowing where writer’s get their ideas and inspiration from. As a writer, I love seeing echoes of my own methods. I enjoyed every section in this book. I enjoyed the essays about classical writers and especially enjoyed the essays about contemporary writers, some I’ve heard of and read and some I haven’t. Oates is one of my favourite writers and Soul at the White Heat had made me a rabid ‘fan’ of her non-fiction as well. I’d highly recommend this collection of essays.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Five Quarters Of The Orange

Five Quarters Of The Orange

Five Quarters Of The Orange by Joanne Harris
Published by Black Swan
Paperback
Published 1 January 2002
363 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book about food’.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake – but hiding a deadly undertow beneath its moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow named after a raspberry liqueur, plies her culinary trade at the creperie – and lets her memory play strange games.

Into this world comes the threat of revelation as Frambroise’s nephew – a profiteering Parisian – attempts to exploit the growing success of the country recipes she has inherited from her mother, a woman remembered with contempt by the villagers of Les Laveuses. As the split blood of a tragic wartime childhood flows again, exposure beckons for Framboise, the widow with an invented past.

EXTRACT

When my mother died she left the farm to my brother, Cassis, the fortune in the wine cellar to my sister, Reine-Claude, and to me, the youngest, her album and a two-litre jug containing a single black Perigold truffle, large as a tennis ball and suspended in sunflower oil, which, when uncorked, still releases the rich dank perfume of the forest floor.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I thought Five Quarters of the Orange was great. I loved it. Harris is one of my favourite writers. I loved the way events unfold, moving between the present and Framboise’s fear that her dark secrets will be forced into light and the events in her past that she is so afraid of being revealed. This dual narrative works really well. I thought the characters were all well written, made of flesh and blood. I loved the setting, rural France. Harris really brings it to life and I thought I was really there at times. Five Quarters of the Orange deals with some dark subject matter including war, occupation and death but manages not to be too depressing. I’ve read other books that deal with similar subjects and they tend to be very dark and almost shocking at times. Harris is an expert at writing about such things with a spark of humanity. I found this book heart-breaking at times. I loved Five Quarters of the Orange and would highly recommend it,

RATING

5 STAR RATING

Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone ILLUSTRATED EDITION

Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone ILLUSTRATED EDITION

Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone ILLUSTRATED EDITION by J K Rowling
Published by Bloomsbury
Hardback
Published 6 October 2015
248 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book that you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile’.  

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Prepare to be spellbound by Jim Kay’s dazzling depiction of the wizarding world and much loved characters in this full-colour illustrated hardback edition of the nation’s favourite children’s book – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Brimming with rich detail and humour that perfectly complements J.K. Rowling’s timeless classic, Jim Kay’s glorious illustrations will captivate fans and new readers alike.

When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him that apparently he’s the last to know. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord’s curse when Harry was just a baby, and which he somehow survived. Leaving his unsympathetic aunt and uncle for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry stumbles upon a sinister mystery when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. Then he hears of a missing stone with astonishing powers, which could be valuable, dangerous – or both. An incredible adventure is about to begin!

EXTRACT  

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I’ve read Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone at least ten times. This is my first time reading the illustrated edition. A word about the illustration edition; the illustrations are lush and gorgeous, and bring Harry’s first adventure to life. This book was a pleasure to read. As for the book itself, I am an uber-fan of Harry Potter. I’ve read the books at least ten times each and seen the DVD’s as many times. The Philosopher’s Stone has a special place in my heart as it was the first time Harry, Ron and Hermione have an adventure. I love this book. It’s easily at the top of my list of all-time favourites. There are so many moments that I love in this book; Harry finding out about Hogwarts, the midnight duel with Malfoy, Hagrid’s dragon, the trip to the Forbidden Forrest, solving the puzzles to reach the stone and a million other things. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is easily one of the best books ever written.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Published by Corsair
Ebook
Published 7 June 2012
247 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book involving a mythical creature’.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

EXTRACT 

Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parent’s house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I really enjoyed The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. This is a well-written, fun and very entertaining. I love fairy-tales. This book reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass and to an extent, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. This is a good thing. I got lost in the strange world September finds herself plunged into and enjoyed accompanying her on her strange adventures. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is the kind of book that’s easy to enjoy. There is a lot of heart here and a lot of craziness as well – two things I adore. I also liked the illustrations at the start of every chapter. It was fun to get lost in Fairyland with September for a while. I might read the other books in the series as well. I’d recommend The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

RATING

4 STAR RATING