Brooklyn

Brooklyn

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Originally published: April 29, 2009 (my birthday)

I was at a train station, serious delays in every direction and I would not be leaving anytime soon. To top off my bad luck, my kindle had run out of battery. It was time to purchase a real, paper book.

I perused the bestsellers in WHSmiths and found Brooklyn. I had seen the film advertised and as always I prefer to read the book before watching the motion picture. The blurb on the back wasn’t exactly captivating, but it had won the Costa novel award in 2009 and had been short and long listed for a few other awards since. It seemed like an easy read that would help me pass the time.

It is set in 1950’s Ireland and is the story of a young girl, Ellis,  who has grown up in a small rural town with her mum and sister (and a few brothers who have since moved away). She has no real prospects until an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor her in New York where she will be able to live, work and study for a better future.

She travels to New York by ship, and has a bumpy ride. She finds a lodging with some other similar minded women, a job in a department store, an evening course and eventually love. But, as with all soppy stories there is also another man, this one all the way back in Ireland.

It is basically the story of Ellis growing up and having to choose between two boys. I would say it is half interesting and a very tame read. There was one dramatic plot twist which I didn’t see coming and actually upset me a little. But I soon go over it and realized I was back in the monotony of this read. This book is exactly the reason why I tend to avoid the WHSmiths bestsellers.

If you want an easy holiday read about young love, dances and courting then please…be my guest!

3 star

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Hausfrau

Hausfrau

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Recommended by Stylist magazine and hailed as the modern day Madam Bovary.  As the title (‘House Wife’ in German) suggests it is the story of bored house wife Anna, her meetings with a psychiatrist and the lovers she has taken to pass the time.  I probably should mention that it highlights her lack of parenting skills and her complete disregard for the feelings of those around her.  The story jumps back and forth between the past and present with interludes of shrink conversations.  Each element to the story seems unimportant, yet together I suppose it built upon her mental state.

I found this book tedious,  I guessed her fate from the outset, because it was the only way she was going to be released from her constant narcissistic drivel.  None of her woes made any sense, the book contradicted itself so much.  She proclaimed to have no one around her and yet right there was a loving family.  Perhaps that example is too obvious but I can assure you Anna makes many mistakes.

Now, I understand that all this could very well be deliberate, showcasing the writer’s talent in aligning and developing her writing according to the mental state of the protagonist. But I turned to my husband at some points and said “I simply can’t read this anymore”…I did but that isnt the point.

 

3 star

Bite: the most gripping thriller you will ever read

Bite

 

Bite: the most gripping thriller you will ever read by Nick Louth

…Yeah right!!!

I read this a while ago, and every time I reflect on the story I roll my eyes. I hope whoever came up with the strap line “the most gripping thriller you will ever read” received a decent pay cheque because unfortunately…it worked.  The book doesn’t need to be fantastic if you have convinced people to make the initial purchase.

This book is about a missing scientist, her short term boyfriend caught up in the hunt and a whole lot of medical terminology with the added extra of a countdown to the release of a deadly weapon that has the potential to kill millions. It is all very rushed, with chases and amazing feats of survival. The boyfriend goes from zero to hero overnight and relies on some rather tedious friendship ties to help him….not to mention some healing powers to rival Superman.

However, I will give the book some credit, where credit is due, and that is because of the flashbacks to Africa and a guerilla terrorist group. I thought that bit was interesting. Mainly because it opened my eyes to some atrocities that swept through the continent.

Not worth my review time to be honest….best for holiday reads I think. Then don’t bother bringing the book home with you.

3 star

 

Fractured

Fractured

Fractured by Karin Slaughter

There is a local bookshop which sells second hand books from anywhere between 1 and 5 Euros. What I enjoyed about my visit was the ‘lucky dip’ style of purchase, books were concealed in brown paper wrapping with only a few critic reviews written on the front to entice your purchase. I picked up a large paperback, which stated it was a bestseller and that the “climax will blow you away”….for 1 Euro. The novelty was fun and I will definitely return.

The whole book is centred around a time frame of approximately 3 days, with an investigative team above that of a city police department, swooping in and taking charge of a crime. Two main characters are flawed (shock) and put aside their differences and history to work together in solving the case of 2 murdered teens and a third missing.

The writing style is adequate, that is to say that there is nothing I can really say negative about the book but then it is not like I can sing from the rafters about how great it is either. I am glad I payed only a euro.

3 stars for this read…

3 star

I AM PILGRIM

i_am_pilgrim

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I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Another kindle best seller, some variety of  thriller I suppose. Many people stating in their reviews that it was gripping and one of the best books they had ever read.  I loosely agree, the book did become a little obsession of mine, but only after I was approximately 60% of the way through. Prior to this point, I found it a mess of words and a tangle of back stories. I understand that it was necessary to give the reader some history, but I feel the stories lost their meaning and emphasis. I personally struggled to see how a lot of it was relative, like the introduction of new characters.

It is the story of an American secret agent coming out of retirement to answer a presidential plea to save the world.  It is very Dan Brown-esq, all one has to do is flood the reader with fancy words, technology and science and BAM they will feel the thrill of an apocalyptic storyline. Not so easily done I am afraid, this book lacked substance; mainly from the characters.  A lot of information was dropped, but not all of it explained.

I do have a few gripes about some of the content too, so many sweeping statements were made about all different types of people, but especially non-Americans. Can Hayes really be that ignorant? There wasn’t even any tangible evidence to support the claims. I particularly did not enjoy his take on the middle east, or the Australians for that matter.  But perhaps I am underestimating Hayes, as a British author is he making a very poignant point about the insular American point of view?

That being said, I think the end of the book truly showcased Hayes’ ability. I quite enjoyed it and was gripped to discover how it ends.

Would I recommend this book, No.

3 star

Orange is the New Black: My time in a womens prison

Orange is the new black

 

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Orange is the new black by Piper Kerman

A nice little read, recommended to me by a work friend. When I began reading the book I hadn’t yet seen any of the TV episodes, so was unaffected by the warping of story line or characters.

It was interesting, very factual. Not much embellishment, so it was a strain to read at times simply because there were several rather drawn out episodes to her prison life. But one thing that remained constant was her complete devotion to Larry, which was nice I suppose.

Once I was almost complete, I then began watching the episodes. It frustrated me at first as the series is very little like the book but then……it had to be made exciting I guess?

I think, and I rarely say this, watch the TV version over the book.

3 star

The Alchemist

the alchemist

 

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The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

After reading that this book has remained steadfast in the NY Times Best-seller List for 267 weeks, I felt it was a no brainer. I had to read it, and with only 192 pages it would provide a welcoming break between Bond books.

Very easy reading, finished in about 3 days.  A lovely story about a boy who sets off to fulfil his ‘personal legend’, finds love along the way and realises….well I will keep that bit quiet.  I don’t think it is written particularly well and has a sort of stop start style, but it is full of  life lessons and I can’t wait to read it to my kids (If and when).

I think every book worm should read this, then pass the book on to a friend….

3 star

Inferno

Inferno

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Inferno by Dan Brown

If you have read all the books from an author, the news of a new book release will without doubt excite you. Fact.

As soon as I learnt of Dan Brown’s Inferno, I didn’t stop and question the quality or possible storyline I just thought ‘I need to read that book!’ I was exactly the same with his last, The Lost Symbol, and despite the awfulness of that book….here I am reviewing the next one. Funny how people often forget a previous bad experience if a ‘new’ and ‘better’ product emerges.

I have to admit at this point I didn’t have high expectations, in fact I assumed the plot will follow his previous tried and tested Langdon sagas in that, to cut a long story short, he saves the world against all odds. There was nothing extraordinary about this book, the girl, the deadline and the normal thrill of fact entwined with fiction that enables you to regurgitate a few facts after finishing the book, my favourite being the origin of the word Quarantine.

As a fan of Dan brown you have to read this, as any other reader, you won’t miss much. If I am honest, it would have been nice to see some sort of exciting twist to the story (aside this), but I was hooked, it was easy to read and I enjoyed it like I enjoy a nice pub lunch. Safe.

3 stars, perhaps could have been 4 had it involved something  new.

3 star

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Girl Lost

littlegirllost

 

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Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway

Currently the number 1 on the Top 100 paid on Kindle storefront. Not sure why I bought this, I think it was because after reading the Confession I assumed I would begin a crime binge. But alas! This book stopped me dead in my tracks.

The story of a girl who is found lost in the woods, bare footed in the snow by a police woman. The police woman has her own troubles, the police force is corrupt, there are kidnappings and fires and murders rah rah rah. One of those stories that is a maze of entwined story lines that seems to incorporate the whole of Northern Ireland and all the problems one small police force could possibly have, drama.

An ok book, not difficult to read and you can understand how this is in the charts, people these days seem to flock to the bad examples of literature (the diabolical 50 shades series to name one). Why is modern literature gradually falling into this pit of (ironic) shallowness!!! Where have all the good writers gone?

I gave this book 3 stars, it has a fairly good plot, a bit too busy at points and I found it quite hard to follow as the writer just seems to miss out points or maybe assume the reader is on the same thought train…either way, for such a simple read it’s baffling.

Has anyone else read this, or another of Brian’s? I can’t decide whether I like this.

3 star

The Great Gatsby

thegreatgatsby

 

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The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

My friend told me she is going to see a play in London called ‘The Great Gatsby’, she said it was a book and that (I quote) I had probably read it. I hadn’t, I had never heard of it and that gave me a strange feeling, either there was a book I hadn’t read or that my friend had presumed I had read it….same thing actually. Basically, I then read it.

This book is heralded at being an American classic, pushed into the limelight as a genius piece of literature. I had read up on this chap before reading and discovered that he had been a bit of a flop and that this book was his chance to finally earn a bit of recognition, and my god did he try!  In fact he tried so hard he fell over the try hard line and carried on going….in that he over tried.  Yes I get it, this book is studied and hailed as a book worth analyzing and I picked up on the classic symbols such as East Egg and West Egg representing new and old money and the weather changing to suit moods and blah blah blah, but I cannot help feeling that this book is…well it’s shit.

However, my friend said the play was very good and that the whole night was a 20’s theme and I thought to myself, that perhaps the story cannot hold itself and that it needs the physical/visual glitz and glamour to make it interesting.

I have given it 3 stars, mainly because I don’t feel good about giving any less to somebody’s hard work but also because I did read and finish it.

3 star

I am however desperately looking forward to the film with Leonardo Di Caprio…Just the promotional picture below is making me salivate. This is definitely the type of book that needs to brought to life.

http://thegreatgatsby.warnerbros.com/

 

thegreatgatsby-leo

The Innocents

The Innocents

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Winner of the 2012 Costa First Novel award

I was attracted to this book because it won an award, yes I can be that shallow.  Sometimes we just need a large corporation to say this is a good book…buy it!  Although, I wish I hadn’t bought this! I paid the full 7.99 for this book on Kindle because I had the trust in Costa to suggest, well no, to give awards to decent books.

It sounds like I hate this book, I don’t. I read it continuously so it cannot be that bad. My problem with this book is that it I can only liken it to reading a few Episodes of Eastenders, or any soap in that there was lots of half-arsed drama, no beginning or end. This book is just strange, why would we want to be a fly on the wall to a rather placid family drama that never climaxes. There was plenty of gossiping and work dramas and endless Jewish references but can somebody please tell me why this book was written? I think it needs a prequel, or a sequel. What’s more, the title and the front cover have nothing to do with the story….a girl running through a garden…did I miss that bit in the book? The Innocents, huh? Don’t get me wrong I have studied English Literature and I would like to think I am perfectly capable of deciphering meanings within literature…..but this book I do not get.

Perhaps I should read The Age of Innocence to appreciate Segal’s new novel?

“In this impressive first novel, Francesca Segal transports The Age of InnocenceEdith Wharton‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of scandal among the upper classes in 1870s New York, to the Jewish community of modern-day north-west London.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/06/innocents-francesca-segal-review)

This is a good book (said loosely), but I just think she should;

1. change the name

2. change the front cover to relate to the story…not be some cryptic reference to an inner self trying to run away type thing

3. Use less descriptive words. Francesca has the typical new writer syndrome where she feels she needs to write an adverb for every second word in the book…..this style of writing doesn’t demonstrate talent except for the ability to use a thesaurus.

Bah, what a rant!!

I don’t think I would suggest this book, and I wish I had ordered a sample before buying the full version.

3 star

If you want to read more about the Innocents, and probably some reviews that liked the book (we are all different);

Slave Girl

slavegirl

 

Slave Girl by Sarah Forsyth

Hi I’m Cara, Erin’s sister. I have just finished reading Slave Girl by Sarah Forsyth. I found this book a good read, it’s defiantly not for the faint hearted as there are some very shocking events that happen. You feel yourself really getting sucked in and seeing it through her eyes, and feeling her pain with her. It will make you see a totally different side to Amsterdam and how 90% of it really is. There is a shocking twist at the end but on reflection, quite understandable.

 

I rate this book 3 1/2 out of 5

3 star

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

A friend of mine who is currently residing in Afganistan as a British Army Officer said that he read this book within 6-8 hours and recommended my reading it, assuming I would enjoy it.  I am not sure if this is 6-8 hours continued reading because as far as my habit of reading 2-3 books a week average goes, this one took me one whole week to complete!

I have to be honest, this book is the complete opposite of my preconceived ideas attained from watching numerous films and adaptations. Even the writing style was so very unexpected, with the story written through the use of letters (similar to Dracula).  But the surprise was a good one, after I realised that I in fact had no clue as to the storyline of this book I enjoyed it…not loved.  Quite a placid book in terms of classic horror, not a lot of action happens.  The most shocking, unexpected element was how nice the creation was, he was a good natured beast that was judged wrongly and so acted upon those ideologies….there was no “IT IS ALIVE” moment and in fact addressing the actual creation of the monster was kept to a bare minimum, with no neck bolts.

Nevertheless, a good book with perhaps a hidden meaning to not judge people on looks? Or that we are doomed from our creation? Many possibilities.

I have given it 3 stars as overall I found it quite boring and I believe the reason it took me so long to read was because I felt it a chore to finish. However, I do recommend that everyone rediscover this classic for what it actually is…

I have just downloaded ‘The strange case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr Hyde.” I must have the horror fever!

The Confessions of Katherine Howard

The Confessions of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn

I don’t need to repeat my love for historical fiction, however I will briefly explain how I came about this book, an actual book! I lent my good friend (Sara) a few of my Michelle Moran books, albeit several years ago, but she returned them to me recently after having thoroughly enjoyed them! So much so in fact that she then went and purchased another historical fiction, namely The Confessions of Katherine Howard, and then lent it to me in return.

The story itself was enlightening, I would like to consider myself an amateur Tudor enthusiast and I had never considered Katherine Howard particularly interesting, but she was/is. She was just a young girl, with no ambition, caught up in the fancies of an old King.   I honestly felt sorry for the fate that beheld her, and in fact all those around her were subsequently caught up and also suffered….how times have changed.

In terms of literature and writing style, it was ok. I thought Dunn over used punctuation and she wrote in an informal, modern tone,  perhaps that is her signature? I also found it hard to get into the book (potentially because of her writing style)  at first and only when the personalities were getting steamy (yes in that sense) did I actually have more than a vague interest in the book. That isn’t to say I pined after a Mr.Grey scenario, I simply felt that the sudden gossip in the young girls’ lives made for a good read.

I am tempted with another of her books.

I have decided to introduce a rating system, therefore I give this book 3 stars. It was light and enjoyable but not addictive or in fact written particularly well.

Stealing Water

Stealing Water by Tim Ecott

This book has left me feeling confused. I picked it up as my kindle had no charge and I simply cannot function without my head in a book (ironically). I am unsure as to where to even begin? This book is essentially the story of the author’s childhood in South Africa….well that was how it was sold to me. Yet, he spent more time in Northern Ireland. The chapters are not in chronologically order and this is common so did not phase me. I think my main issue with this book is that nothing actually happens, there is no story line and no climax and more often than not a lot of dribble of a memory far from interesting.  HOWEVER, the book is written very well and the references as to what Africa was like during the apartheid regime make you flinch with disgust.  If you find other people’s lives fascinating then perhaps you will appreciate this book.

As a military child he lived in several different locations, with the perks that military accommodation provides, such as a social scene.

Better Days Will Come

Better Days Will Come by Pam Weaver

A lengthy book that I have just finished in a couple of days, usually that means that I was utterly hooked.  Which I was, but not in the typical ‘can’t put this down’ way.  This book has a great storyline with many characters that are developed thoroughly, but in my opinion this book is not challenging or written in a style that leaves you wanting more.  That is not to say that this isn’t a great read, I feel it’s the complexity of the characters and the social restrictions of the time that carry this book.  However, I did cry all the way through the final chapter.

The story of a mother and her two daughters set in 1947, in post war Britain.