Return of the Mac

So I have been otherwise pre-occupied this past year, I cant’t believe it has been over a year since I last posted.

But, I have a back log of books to review and a new MacBook, so please stay tuned.

……..I need to get back into the swing of writing.

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

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

The Horse Whisperer

horsewhisperer

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

I have just finished watching the film. After finishing the book I wanted to see it brought to life, but I am filled with regret. Why do I continue to sabotage my wonderful book experiences with the film adaptation?

I was so enthralled by the book, it was centred around my most favourite of animals and successfully captured the grace and intelligence of these magnificent creatures. The humans worked well too, with action, love  and more emotion than my watery eyes could bear.

It is the story of a young girl who was involved in a collision with a truck whilst she is out riding with her friend one early winter morning. Both her and her horse are left with physical and mental scars, needing the help of  a horse whisperer and his ranch to heal them both.

It is wonderfully written, and I finished it in no time at all, the fastest I have read a book in a long time.  Perhaps because I read it as a physical paperback.  The author is a apparently a film producer of sorts and this was his first written work. I think he clearly has a gift, I particularly enjoyed the way each chapter, although remaining in the third person, was from a different characters’ perspective.

The film though, save your pennies.

5 star

Far from the Madding Crowd

Far from the madding crowd

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

I love Thomas Hardy. I always thoroughly enjoy his books, knowing full well that my mind will easily produce a beautiful image thanks to his skill at elongating even the tiniest of details.  I revel in the depths of each character, enjoy looking at the landscapes he creates so expertly and his social conventions are insightful. I wish more modern authors would allow themselves to be influenced by late 19th Century writers…

Not my first time reading Far From the Madding Crowd, and it is by no means my favourite Hardy novel but I love his heroine characters. I read Bathsheba as strong and confident (whereas I am sure that my Husband would take her as fickle with a lack of life skills), she creates such a dynamic twist to the plot, almost as if Hardy struggles to keep up with her choices. The story is set in a rural town, with Bathesheba as the new owner of a farm after her Uncle died and left it to her. The story follows the relationship between her and her 3 very differing suitors; the first is simple but steadfast Gabriel Oak. The second a wealthy William Boldwood who owns the farm adjacent and finally there is the lustful Sergeant Troy. 

Bathesheba is a real woman, who has enough determination in life to run her farm, but simultaneously enough love in her heart to be wooed by a strapping young soldier. She makes mistakes and retributions. She is gossiped about yet highly respected. She has the brains to ensure the success of the farm and it’s workers yet she has the faith in God to see her through turbulent times.  I would like to think that she is one of the earliest fiesty characters in literature.

Like the first time I read Far from the Madding Crowd, I loved it.  I have a couple of favourite quotes; the first is Oak’s proclamation of love very early in the book;

“And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be— and whenever I look up, there will be you.
-Gabriel Oak”

I particularly like this as later on in the book, when Bathsheba is in turmoil she glances into Oak’s house to see him sitting by the fire, suggesting that his simple and constant love remains as steadfast and true as the day he revealed it.

The below quote I think is very poignant,

“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.”
 Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd

 

5 star

Atonement

 

Atonement

Published: 2001

Author: Ian McEwan

This book has been on my radar since the film release in 2007, but I never felt an overwhelming urge to read it so although I had it on my kindle it wasn’t until I bought the hard copy a few weeks ago that I decided now would be as good a time as any.

For those of you living under a rock, the story goes that a young girl commits a crime that allegedly has disastrous consequences for her sister and their long term family friend; it sees lovers torn apart and a family in turmoil. The film trailer and even the book synopsis created this illusion that I was about to read something terrible, awful. This young girl unwittingly commits a crime and the whole world turns upside down because of it. The problem I had with this book is that the crime wasn’t drastic enough for me; the lives after the said crime were not substantially decimated.

Setting the scene for this lie was the most interesting part of the book; it was most of the book in fact! Everything after just seemed to fall out of the authors mouth like word vomit. I didn’t think enough emphasis went on any character so how a reader can feel that lives have been turned upside down is beyond me. Example, the elder sister stops speaking to her family (apologies for a reveal), but how did this impact her or the family? It doesn’t say.

It might seem that I am being harsh and I suppose I have my own high expectations to contend with, I did enjoy the book. Maybe it is because I like period literature, or maybe it is because I have a black heart and wanted to read about the ruining of lives!

On that note, there was one poignant scene in the book, set on the beaches of Dunkirk in WWII after the retreat had been ordered; it saw a fight ensue between army soldiers and a weak member of the RAF. This spat tore at my heart strings, and I thought McEwan successfully captured the absolute carnage of human mentality and body on those beaches over 70 years ago.

 Although my review has the pretence of snubbing the literary efforts of McEwan, I would recommend the book.  I would always recommend the book over a film.  The setting of the scene was beautifully done, and the descriptiveness of the war efforts were also very good.

 

4 star

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

Book binge

My local book store had a one day extravaganza, all books €1! So I found a few on my to read list! …plus I had a lovely slice of homemade cake! Day well spent.  

Daughter

Daughter

Daughter by Jane Shemilt

It has taken me a while to type thoughts to blog. This is a hard hitting book and I think to provide a review half heartedly would somehow dishonor the story.  Plus, when a book leaves a lingering feeling of emptiness, how can one find the words to put into a review?

The book is centred around a missing girl and the subsequent deteriation of her whole family. It infuses past and present narrative to create a seamless flow of thoughts and memories, all from the mothers perspective.  When I bought this book, I didn’t realise the strength of the story I was about to unfold, it opens the door to an otherwise locked life, that of a parent with a missing child.  The way in which each character intereacts with each other is chilling, shocking, yet so real.

I could never have guessed the ending, but the way in which I got there was predictable. But not in a negative way. It was more Shemilt luring out my understanding of grief. We all know, have all seen tears on the TV news, in films and we all think we know what goes through peoples’ minds.  But to read it in such a raw and obvious way makes you realise that you know nothing. That you pray to God this will never happen to you.

In terms of the pace of the story, it is slow.  But you don’t need it to go any faster as the perfectly dovetails that of the trauma, fast in the beginning, slow and agonising in the middle, then normal and reluctant towards the end.

This book has a 3.6 on Goodreads. I think the problem lies in the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of action, just memories and anguish. People also don’t recognise the book as belonging to a typical genre, something Shemilt exaplins so well:

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Psychological suspense, (thriller/drama) is the nearest that I can get to placing the book, not a very  meaningful label  as so many books within this capacious scope are completely different from each other. My background is medical, I’m an ex- GP, my husband is a neurosurgeon. It was helpful to use this known world to create the back drop to both books, and some issues from that world become important. In Daughter: the dangers of labelling, of short cuts, doctors playing God.  But Daughter isn’t a medical drama; it’s a story about a missing girl and the themes of grief, loss, harmful secrets, betrayal and fear do resonate with others in this genre.

An extract from her website.

I am giving this book 5 stars because I think it is brilliantly written, it demonstrates a real talent from Shemilt and I can’t believe this is only her debut.

5 star

Remember 

To have the world remember this day 70 years on is incredible, becasue she was incredible. Her writing and editing skills, her energy and personality live on.

awellredgirl

Anne Frank died 70 years ago today



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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

My year in books: 2014

My year in books: 2014

Not my best year for reading, but I did get engaged and married so I am not going to be too hard on myself.  A total of 23 successfully finished, and additionally some half read books I could not bear to finish; one being The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (Sorry Georgie!).

Just a few awards to dish out, obviously my opinions are my own so please do not start abusing me for my choices…

Best book of 2014

Tracks by Robyn Davidson. The true story of Robyn’s trek from the centre of Australia to the West coast, a truly remarkable account. It was funny, sad and exciting and left me wishing I was there, nay, her! I simply could not get enough of this book and I feel it has made me a better person for having read it. Maybe I appreciate people’s dreams or something, not quite sure how I ameliorated myself but I feel it, and that is what counts.

Runner up

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.  This book I think deserves to be on everyone’s reading list.  It is a love story, written from a sad and distant perspective, and it is beautiful in every way. This is no story, it is a piece of literary art. It pains me to say, but unfortunately a story with this depth and skill is apparently no contender for the modern day dribble that we see on the Kindle best sellers, people need to wake up and smell the well written books!

Worst book of 2014:

This is a no brain-er. It has to be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  What killed the ambience of this hollywood read was the terrible writing, shallow characters and the poor quality of the kindle version, to boot! I admit, the story had me turning the pages, but compared to a real thriller (John Grisham is a fantastic thriller writer) it was a wet flannel.

January – 😦

February  – 12 Years a Slave

March – A Respectable Trade

April – Gone Girl, Unchartered

May – The End of the Affair

June – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Divergent, The Confession (again)

July – Insurgent, Allegiant, Tracks

August – Starting Over, an Officer and a Spy

September – Bite, Sycamore Row

October – Elephant Moon, Daughter, Orange is the New Black, The Secret Life of Bletchley Park

November – Birdsong, Philomena,

December – Dear Daughter

Having the books in list form has reminded me of many an unfinished review. Please bear with me…

#PopCulture: Everything #JKRowling Revealed About #HarryPotter in 2014

A great summation…

~ The Adam's Corner ~

The boy who lived. And lived. And lived

Dumbledore’s Army members are in their thirties

Rowling hit the heart of nostalgia in July when she published a gossip column from Rita Skeeter about Harry and Company’s reunion at the Quidditch World Cup. The infamous wizards, “no longer the fresh-faced teenagers they were in their heyday,” are now in their thirties. Harry, a 34-year-old with “threads of…

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Dear Daughter

Dear-DaughterBUY BOOK

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

A few weeks ago Stylist magazine published an article on the best books that have fallen below the radar in 2014, of which I instantaneously ripped out and stuffed it into my handbag. I couple of weeks later I then perused the page again with a smug, self congratulatory air and named Dear Daughter as the first book I would devour.

 Consumed within a couple of days, I could not put this book down. I revelled in the re-awakening of an addiction, which hadn’t flared up for some time.  It was such an unusual read, as though I were watching an interview on E-Entertainment with the same digression and memories a person would have if they were sat in front you.  There was also supporting evidence thrown in for weight such as Twitter feeds, news articles and texts which entertained the E-news similarity.  Elizabeth Little is an artist when it comes to setting up and delivering cliff hangers, I thought I predicted the climax. But I was wrong, and that felt so good!

It is the story of a wealthy American-Swiss Socialite who is jailed for murdering her philanthropist Mother.  It starts with her release 10 years later.

An excellent read, written in a modern, swearing way which usually I would have steered clear from. I will say this, missing words occur regularly.

5 star

New Header, New Home

header image

 

Today is moving day, and all of these precious items are being packed away and not seen again for another week.

Since I will have a new home, I figured, why not update the header image on my blog! Hope you enjoy!

See you on the other side!

Elephant Moon

Elephant moon

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Elephant Moon by John Sweeney

I usually ask those around me for any book recommendations, or do some research online as to which one I should pursue next.  However I finished Daughter late a couple of evenings ago and needed a read for the daily commute in the morning.  So, I saw the cover of Elephant moon, and judged that I would enjoy this animal inspired story.  From the get go, the very first sentence, I was captivated, I fell down the history rabbit hole into the middle of the Burmese town of Rangoon in 1941.

Based loosely on a true account of an Elephant regiment of 53 beasts, rescuing a school mistress and her band of merry orphans from the terrors of the Japanese invasion during the second world war. Altogether, men, elephants, children and one woman trekked through the Jungle up to the safety of India, witnessing unimaginable horrors as well as beautiful animal relationships and experiencing love and loss. A truly remarkable tale that had my mind racing back to the great war as well as having me in tears on the tube,

Since finishing it earlier today I have done a little background reading on the book and have come across some great reviews, but I have also read some which are very negative. I understand and recognise the flaws frequently mentioned, such as weak characters and a loose writing style, and I certainly didn’t miss the pathetic love references.  This book is certainly not written with the same kind of depth you experience from the likes of the more seasoned author, but in my opinion the story outshines anything Sweeney could have written.

I don’t think that you should rush out and read Elephant Moon, but I do feel that if you don’t read it at some point you will be missing out on something special.

4 star

An Officer and a Spy

An officer and a spy

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An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

Last year I read The Ice King and it wasn’t until I had finished the book that I realised the target audience was the male reader. Now that I can recognise the traits, I immediately cogitated this book as for men. Well, in all honesty it must be fairly obvious considering the first chapter was completely dominated by a military situation which involved a lot of military terms and phrases. I contemplated throwing in the towel and moving onto something more appealing to my female mind (feminists please don’t attack me).

I am glad I continued and endured the first few chapters of words that flew completely over my head, thinking to myself, “I am sure it will all come together”. And come together it did. The story then became fascinating, and I fell whole heartedly into Harris’ mindset, timeframe and location. Thinking about the characters whilst reading and then each time I put the book down I simply couldn’t get enough of when the next crucial revelation was arriving and from where.

The story is set on the Dreyfus Affaire, a true story about a Jew punished for allegedly being a traitor in the French army passing secret information to the Germans by being sent to live in squalid conditions on a remote island near the Faulklands.  If you google the story you will discover that Dreyfus was in fact innocent and the story details the discovery of his guiltlessness and the extremes people went to both punish and save him and those around him.

A truly fascinating read that both shocked and taught me about this infamous scandal.  I highly recommend this book.

5 star

Starting Over

Starting over

 

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Starting Over by Evan Grace

The book opens with a cutesy just turned 18 year old girl named Bellamy, dressing herself in preparation for losing her virginity with the guy she has been in love with like forever *yawn*. On reading the first couple of pages I did not have high expectations, especially after being introduced to other characters such as  ‘Lola’.  Just another trashy book that has somehow managed to claw itself onto the kindle most downloaded list.

In every sense I was correct, always follow your instincts. It was rubbish, a terrible story line which produced so many more questions than it could answer, but I was addicted and couldn’t put the book down! Yeah it was a trashy love story which could be predicted from the outset and yeah the names were terrible and the discourse appalling……but my god it’s addictive.

I would also like to mention that the book digresses on several occasions into a more intimate scenario. Perhaps not a book for the pure?

Four stars simply for being addictive

4 star