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

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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

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

Dear Daughter

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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

Birdsong

Birdsong quote

I have recently finished Birdsong, and was shocked at how it impacted me emotionally. It wasn’t the story that I found so moving, but rather the parallel lives of those back in Blighty and the indifference they felt towards the front line soldiers.

A full review to follow, but for now a quote from the book that truly illustrates how this war affected the men who gave their bodies and minds to it.

12 years a slave

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12 years a slave by Solomon Northup

The whole world is talking about 12 years a slave, the film not the book. Pestered to go and see the film I thought I would read the book beforehand, so as to appreciate the full narrative in my own time before being subject to someone else’s vision. I thought the book was compelling, there were moments when I couldn’t put the kindle down. It was the type of story that resounded in my thoughts all day long after having read during my morning commute.

I had heard that there are scenes in the film that are perhaps a little too brutally honest.  Although the story was hard to digest, it wasn’t because of the graphic scenes the narrator depicts. I have read a few historical fictions, autobiographies and memories on the ‘slave trade’ and no matter what scene unfolds within the words what disgusts me most is that I don’t believe I see guilt in the American population today. I completely understand that Britain had a part but we did not follow in their inhumane footsteps and we realised far sooner the wrong.

How many slavery films have been made? Wikipedia says 29, yet how many films on war? Hundreds. And now Hollywood have made a multi million dollar production with a no doubt more conservative approach to the story and all of sudden the world remembers? But, if a visual representation is what is needed to bring this level of inflicted suffering to the forefront of history…..

What a rant! I just hate it when truth gets glossed over in nice rose tinted glasses.

5 star

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This book was a breath of fresh, classic air.  Oscar Wilde is an author who is not obsessed with the beauty of the earth like so many of his predecessors, but rather has a fascination with human traits and interpersonal skills with most of the book being written in the form of conversation.  A great example of the modernisation of British literature; moving from excessive descriptions and weak protagonists slighted by life onto strong characters infatuated with guilty pleasures and a desire to grab at opportunities.  In fact, there was no religion either, a shock for its time (However, with the sexuality of Oscar, I’m not surprised).

En excellent and exciting read; I did not feel that I was reading a classic novel but rather a modern book set in period costume with added extravagant whims.

My biggest joy when reading about Mr.Gray was the the endless quotes, Oscar has the most beautiful way with words. “The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. Your lips rewrite history.”

I have given this book 4 stars as although I thoroughly enjoyed the read, I was not quite as hooked to the book as previous favourites….or in fact the one I am now reading (Wait and see!).

But steer clear of the film adaptation (with Colin Firth), unless you want to watch an  alternative ending/whole second half of the book?

Kindle Trouble AGAIN!!!!!

I swear, if it were not for the impeccable customer service of Amazon (and my unnatural attachment to the device) I would throw my Kindle away! How can it keep breaking on me?  The most unnerving fact is that I treat the piece of technogenius with all the love and care in the world, so how and why does it keep breaking? The first 2 faults were screen, this one is the back chaise, it has come apart. Not good. I can’t even read as it now doesn’t load my books and forgets my book location….and that is when I am successful in turning the thing on!

Ho Hum. I should be back with you shortly with a Peter Pan book review.