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

After all this time? “Always”

  

Sycamore Row

Sycamore_Row_by_John-Grisham

Sycamore Row

Published: October 22, 2013, paperback July 2014

Author: John Grisham

A few months before reading this I read The Confession for the second time within less than 12 months. I never re-read books (unless it is Harry Potter).  So when I discovered Grisham had a new book out I was stomach butterfly excited!

I downloaded Sycamore Row as soon as I could and completely devoured the book like a lioness who has gone without zebra for weeks.  The book followed Jake Brigance, a solicitor introduced in an earlier book ‘A Time to Kill’.  I haven’t yet read A Time to Kill, however I happened upon the film one evening and was emotionally gripped, one of the best films I ever seen due to a dramatic storyline and a brilliant acting.

Back to Sycamore Row, it follows the aftermath of the death of a wealthy cancer stricken Southern man, Seth Hubbard,  leaving his estate to his black house cleaner and naming Jake Brigance as the estate’s solicitor.   Big sparks fly as Seth’s children and Grand children contest the decision made in his last, hand written Will claiming he was under duress or that he was too poorly to be in his right mind.

What is so superb about this story, is the way that Grisham can have you gripped to every word on the page as you eagerly urge the characters to discover just a thread of information.  A truely captivating read that once again draws on the racial segregation of Southern America.

I think the ending is the best part, you must read it!

5 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

Philomena

Philomena

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Philomena by Martin Sixsmith

I like to read a book before I see it, I should hope most people feel the same. This is the story of the lost child of Philomena Lee and it turned my water works on. I cried on the tube and it was embarrassing. I cried in bed and it gave me sore eyes. I thought about the story and it welled me up at my desk. It was a sob story, but a fantastic one. It was so thorough, from Philomena’s life to her son’s. Every person that interacted with them, every life turning event, every moment spent reading closed the gap between just words on a page and really knowing someone.

However, as great as Dame Judi is, the film was a little flaccid. It did not provide the same mental stimulation and emotional roller coaster as the book. W
which is a shame.

4 star

Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant

divergent-series

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Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

When you run, you aim to run negative times, always trying to beat your previous lap. So why can this concept not be applied to literature…we should all endeavour to be better the next time, shouldn’t we?  There are so many book series that seem to get worse as you read; Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent….

I enjoyed Divergent, the concept wasn’t unfamiliar with a very Hunger Games vibe; society sectioned off and conforming to set standards and expectations. It was also definitely a young adult read with the standard strong female lead, action, betrayal and secret love, so nothing new basically.  Having said that, a great read which I finished quickly.

Insurgent was a little odd for me but I kept reading simply to know more, although I wasn’t addicted to it like I was the first. It was pretty much the same as Divergent but with an added twist of some killed off characters returning.

Allegiant, well, it is a means to an end I guess. It reminded me of the Hunger Games trilogy in that the first two books were strong, exciting and addictive and then along came the third which saw the protagonist as a quivering mess doing odd things to save everyone but themselves. Starting strong then gradually getting worse.

I sound like I am being too harsh, I did mention that it is aimed at young adults so maybe I am being too critical. I read all 3 after all.  Actually, the books made me feel like I was watching some dystopian Barbie world come to life, dolls being controlled by humans……ooo that is a spoiler by the way!

4 star

 

 

There is a film, the reason for my reading the books in the first place. It doesn’t look that bad actually…

The Fault in our Stars

The fault in our stars

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The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Bought this on a whim somewhat foolishly after seeing that it was doing well in the charts and although I read it to the conclusion, I was disappointed.

The book follows two pretentious teenagers that seem to take great pleasure in the fact that they are so intelligent. The way that the characters interact with each other and the world merely stands to make them thoroughly unbelievable as characters as they simply do not behave like real life people do. It makes it seem as if the author is trying to show off how intelligent and brilliant he is by throwing in these deep meaningful and analytical conversations between the two main characters.

The book also deliberately throws in these ‘heart breaking’ occurrences that merely irritate the reader as oppose to cause them to well up with sadness. It actually eventually made me dislike both parties by the end of the novel. What was the most ‘throw up in your mouth’ cringeworthy was the sex scene where the author appears to have neglected to acknowledge that a string of chemo and radiotherapy is likely to have rendered both characters infertile and mentions ‘awkward condomy moments’ which feels like he is trying to keep parents happy as he promotes safe sex. It again, completely detracted from any realism with this book. The fact that she attempts to use the word ‘condomy’ is completely at odds with her usual poetic self.

My advice is to see that this book is aimed at a mainly female young teen audience and to avoid it if you do not fit into that category.

Ben

2 star

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The perks of being a wallflower

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Me: “I need a new book to read”

Him: “I’m reading the Perks of Being a Wallflower, it is really good”

Me: “How?”

Him: “Don’t know, just is, read it”

 Not the best sales pitch I have to admit, and no matter how hard I tried to squeeze out information, he simply couldn’t articulate why he liked this book so much, which is saying something as he is naturally verbose! I didn’t have any other ideas as to what to pursue next so I downloaded and began reading then also became addicted.

The book is written in the first person, a teenager writing to a friend at regular intervals. We never find out who the friend is nor why he writes but he uses the letters as a way of externalising his thoughts and feelings, something he struggles to do in daily life.

 What is fascinating about this book is that we are only privy to a segment of his life, and yet we learn so much about him and his life, embark on a journey together. Discovering things about him just as he discovers them himself, I am sure the friend he writes to is the reader and it made me feel almost special knowing that I understand him in a way his friends and family struggle to.

The letters finish when he realises and remembers everything, I won’t elaborate in case you want to read it, and I strongly suggest you do!

5 star

 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

GONE_GIRL

Gone girl

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 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I began reading this book a few months ago, but a stream of good literature came along so I ditched it without hesitation. When it comes to books, I can be fickle like that.

When I think back to my first thoughts, there was no chemistry, hence why I found it so easy to just cast aside. But I was recently left high and dry after finishing A Respectable Trade  as I didn’t have any new downloads to choose from and being on the tube I couldn’t even use my 3G! My heart started to pound, a little sweat formed above my brow and my face was I imagine quite panic stricken. Frantically tapping through my library to find anything I hadn’t read yet, Gone Girl saved the day.  A little rusty at first but after a few days I got into a nice rhythm, it is a hefty book don’t you know?!

If you are a regular visitor to my blog you will know two things, the first my love of historical fiction and the second being my hatred for modern literature (juxtaposed I know!). So I didn’t have high expectations, I expected even less some form of actual writing skill. The story plods along and just when you feel like dropping off Gillian drops a bombshell. She uses this method frequently and after a few I realised just how much of a clever ploy this is.  I won’t divulge said bombshells as you may not have read it yet, and there is a film coming out this October. But take it from me, they are big news!

The book is in 2 parts, the second half got really interesting! I almost couldn’t put it down. She turned the whole story on it’s head and aside from a few snore-y parts, which I admittedly skimmed, I was genuinely hooked.

This book could be a five star, for many it probably is considering the amount of people I saw reading this on my daily commute…and the awards;

  • New York Times Janet Maslin’s 10 Favorite Books of 2012
  • Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainer of the Year
  • People Magazine Best books of the year
  • Edgar Award nominee for Best Novel
  • Amazon and Barnes & Noble Best of the Year
  • Macavity Award nominee for Best Mystery Novel
  • Anthony Award nominee for Best Novel
  • The Women’s Prize nominee for Fiction
  • Strand Critics Award nominee

But for now, it is a 4.

4 star

4 stars

Monica Ali

Brick Lane

I thought I would reveal my current read, Brick lane by Monica Ali, a book that has managed to remain under my radar for some years despite its acclaim. But, with Monica Ali being named as a Leading Lady in Marks and Spencer‘s new campaign, Britain’s Leading Ladies, I couldn’t help but take notice of her and her first novel.

http://www.marksandspencer.com/Monica-Ali-Britains-Leading-Ladies-Preview-Womens/b/3147225031

I am trying to avoid commenting on how I am finding the book so as to be able to write a full review once I am finished, what I will say is that I have just discovered that the book was made into a film in 2007 and it looks incredible!!!

Watch this space!

The Red Queen

The Red Queen

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

This was a quick purchase at Heathrow airport on my way to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as I needed a book for my 12+ hours of travel and I didn’t fancy carrying my current read, Wolf Hall.

I saw Philippa Gregory and I knew I would be in safe water, little did I know that the water was so safe it was placid. This book seemed to have all the right components, a strong heroine, an exciting time period, war and love. But after trudging through the book I was more than disappointed, I was embarrassed for Philippa.  It is so poorly written, with constant repetition. Always repeating. Everything is repeated several times and Gregory gave me absolutely no credit, in fact I can only presume she assumed I and the rest of her readership are dim and incompetent.

I simply do not understand where this book came from, did she actually write it herself or commission it out to be written on her behalf.

Whatever, see the link below for a full review on the plot. But take my advice, avoid this one.

Bah…..

2 star