Our Man in Havana

Our man in havana

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

A friend of mine plonked a pile of books onto his dining room table as we were leaving his house as his “book recommendation”.  I then transferred this vertical stake into a horizontal on my book case as soon as we got home and didn’t think much more about them. Flash forward a few weeks and I was a little dry on the book front so picked the first one from this recommended list.

The only other Graham Greene I have read was The End of the Affair, which is one of the most beautiful reads I have experienced, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this GG was in fact an superbly written black comedy.

It follows a British expat (Mr Wormold) in Havana who has a failing business,  a passively demanding teenage daughter and a few old time friends who are a little questionable in post war times.  He is recruited by MI6 to provide them with some valuable inside information on communist Cuba, which he accepts in order to make a bit of extra cash to fulfil his daughter’s needs….. the only problem being that Mr. Wormold’s mundane life doesn’t know any secrets that he could report back to MI6, so his imagination becomes the source.

It is hilarious! There were a few instances in which I laughed out loud. An episode I am particularly fond of is Mr Wormold’s appearance at a large house of a character he seemingly made up where he witnesses a domestic argument…but not between husband and wife as first believed. He then becomes the centre of the argument….all whilst barely saying a word.

A great book, 5 stars for sure! However, I feel that this book is a fabulous book hiding within a boring one. I started reading it without much hope and it took me a few chapters to really read between the lines and appreciate the style of writing, it is an unassuming comedy.

 

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The Whistler

 

The Whistler by John Grisham

It has been a while since a new John Grisham was published, though it hasn’t been too long since I last read one (I finished The Innocent man just a few weeks ago).  I was eagerly anticipating this read and when it started off jargony and slightly hard to follow I persevered as it is not unusual for a JG book to throw a big bucket load of context at the reader in the first quarter of the book. However, this one took until the final third to really get going….having said that, there was one giant plot twist towards the beginning.

The story is of a whistle blower (Dur) submitting information about a dodgy judge working with an Indian reservation casino. The back story involves crime and murder and the actual story involves crime and murder.

I love JG, I have read far too many of his novels to simply be a casual fan of his, but this one I feel let me down.  It had a sense of rushness about it, and was a little on the placid side. I guess it just failed to really get my heart racing like to many of his others. It has 4 stars as I did read it, and wanted to and to be honest the 4th star was achieved simply because its JG.

I did like that the protagonist was a female, but I felt she was a bit too overly strong and lone wolf style in that she lived alone, was unmarried and loved her life that way. Why can’t a strong female character have a family, or a boyfriend or even be a single mum and still be rocking at her job? Why does she have to be female but own so many typically male traits? I wasn’t impressed.

If someone was to ask me what JG book they would recommend, this wouldn’t be in the top 5…..maybe not even the top 10. But having said that, I am grateful there is a new book to even review.

Harry Potter life lessons

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”

  

26 Reasons Why You Need To Read More

A great Buzz feed article, asking attendees of the Book Expo America to write down reasons why you need to read more. One of my favourites is:

“Because books tell the stories of people we don’t know, places we haven’t been, and worlds we can only imagine.”

Read the article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jarrylee/reasons-to-read-more#.fh3AbQwqxo

Always,” said Snape.

“Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.”
J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7))

 

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

“It’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren’t feeling twinkly yourself.”

“It’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren’t feeling twinkly yourself.” – Danny says to his father

Danny the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl

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…

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!