Thursday, 27 October 2011

The First Wife is in part like Emily Barr's previous novels, there's an edge of suspense to it. An edge that it isn't all as it seems and there's a certain aura to the novel where you wonder when the bottom is going to drop out and it's all going to go bonkers, it's all going to implode. I thought the initial plot was excellent although it made me think of the Dorothy Koomson’s, ’The Woman He Loved Before.’  I was entranced by Lily Button, a young girl, whose life revolved around her grandparents until they died and she was suddenly  thrust into the world. I found Lily's naïveté charming, rather than annoying, but what I did find annoying, was how she was smitten with Harry Summers and how their relationship raced along, I wanted to say. ’Watch out he isn’t what he seems to be.’  It was so predictable you knew something was wrong, especially as his wife was supposed to have committed suicide in Spain when they were there for Christmas on Christmas day!  I must admit, I did find the suspense lacking.

Don't get me wrong, it was there, and like I said, I was waiting for it all to drop, but it was miles more sedate than ‘The Sisterhood.’ The synopsis makes a big mention of a `shocking discovery' about Harry's wife Sarah, but the action of the novel is relegated to those final 50/75 pages. Up until then, it's a fairly pedestrian novel. Very readable, but not what I expect from an Emily Barr novel. I still enjoyed it, mind, because Lily's story and how she goes from a practical hermit to being out in the world and making her own money is indeed very interesting, but not really believable.  I liked the house where she lodged, I thought the family was lovely, and I liked her friendship with Al, and her burgeoning relationship with the family. I also liked the story about Jack, a New Zealander fed up with his life and wanting to break free and visit Europe. It was all done very well, it just didn't make my heart race as much as some of her other novels.

I must admit, I did find the latter stages of the book to be beyond the realms of believability. Lily takes off to Barcelona and I just felt that from what we knew of her thus far, it wouldn't be in her make-up to do that. I found it hard to believe that Lily would survive the bustle of an airport and the flight to Barcelona and the enormity of being in a city where people speak a different language. It might have been necessary to the plot, but it was entirely out of characters for me and it sort of spoiled it a little bit. You don't give us a character who in all of her 21 years has only ever left Cornwall a couple of times and then have her, on a whim (suspicious, or no) head to Barcelona. Especially as she found Sarah in a place she had never been to before. Nevertheless, the ending was very fast-paced and frantic and everything all sort of spilled out in one long shocking confession. It was all rather predictable, so it was rather anti-climatic in a sense, but still dramatic in others. Overall, although I  enjoyed The First Wife, I don't personally believe it was as good as any of her other books and was like a not very good chick lit book. Some of the speech from the characters was facile and irritated me.

What irked me even more, that having promised myself I wouldn’t buy any new books this Autumn, ( I had 16 books at home to read) I saw and bought this (as she was one of my favourite authors) and at full price from W. H. Smiths!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Woman he Loved Before by Dorothy Koomson

As always with Dorothy Koomson, her books always have an element of drama about them. They always seem to radiate true emotion and I always finish one of her books feeling sad that I have to wait for another.
This particular story seems at first glance to be a straight cut story about Jack's wife Eve who died. However, things are far from straightforward and as soon as you pick up the book and start to read you are drawn into the current life of his present wife, Libby who is struggling with things, as well as Eve's past life and the secrets she holds.

The story is told cleverly and although towards the latter part of the book I thought I had it all figured out, I was shocked to realise I was wrong. Libby is a lovely character who has her own insecurities about her husband Jack and the things he hides. Although it's clear that Jack has a troubled past you can't help but warm to him as a reader. He may not be perfect but you can't help but feel that his heart truly belongs to Libby.

Dorothy Koomson has again written a book that is not only powerful but one that is quite heart wrenching. When the past of Jack and Eve begin to come out you begin to realise that things are not quite as black and white as they seem.
I loved the fact that story had two very separate threads, one in the past and one in the current, but the two stories would intertwine magically. I also loved the setting being mainly in Brighton as well as London. The main topics that are dealt with in the book are always the easiest for an author to deal with well but this book truly relays the situations in a great way. As ever Dorothy Koomson has produced an outstanding book that I literally couldn't (or wouldn't as my husband kindly pointed out) put down. I cannot recommend this book, or for that matter this author highly enough. I have yet to find fault with her writing or any of her books. An absolute joy to read and one I suggest that you put on your list to read.
As you may have guessed I love Dorothy Koomson books and this is the forth I have read by her, only three more to go!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner

The opening page of this book is the 07:44 train on the Brighton to London line.
The Brighton to London line. The 07:44 train. Carriages packed with commuters.

A woman applies her make-up. Another occupies her time observing the people around her. A husband and wife share an affectionate gesture. Further along, a woman flicks through a glossy magazine.

Then, abruptly, everything changes: a man has a heart attack, and can't be re...
Carriages packed with commuters. We are given a snap shot of the occupants of one section of the train. A woman applies her make-up. Another occupies her time observing the people around her. A husband and wife share an affectionate gesture. Further along, a woman flicks through a glossy magazine.   
Then, abruptly, everything changes: a man has a heart attack, and can't be resuscitated; the train is stopped, an ambulance called. The passengers leave the train.

For at least three passengers on the 07:44 on that particular morning, life will never be the same again.
Lou witnesses the man's final moments. Anna and Lou share a cab when they realise the train is going nowhere fast. Anna is Karen's best friend.
And Karen? Karen's husband is the man who dies.

Telling the story of the week following that fateful train journey, One Moment, One Morning is a stunning novel about love and loss, about family and – above all – friendship. A stark reminder that, sometimes, one moment is all it takes, it also reminds us that somehow, and despite everything, life can and does go on.

A super read that held me all the way through, which I read more or less in one sitting.


The Brighton to London line. The 07:44 train. Carriages packed with commuters.

A woman applies her make-up. Another occupies her time observing the people around her. A husband and wife share an affectionate gesture. Further along, a woman flicks through a glossy magazine.

Then, abruptly, everything changes: a man has a heart attack, and can't be re...more

Friday, 14 January 2011

Revenge of A Middle Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan

This is a deliciously entertaining book about Rose, her adulterous husband Nathan, the other woman, the diabolical Minty (a rather fragile she devil) and Rose's oddball grown up children Poppy and Sam.

The plot centre around Nathan leaving Rose for Minty who is actually Rose’s assistant at work where Rose is the editor of the Book Section of a magazine. I thought Rose was very weak as she didn’t make any sort of fuss when Nathan says he is leaving her. And then to cap it all she loses her job to the other woman Minty and then to add insult to injury Nathan says he wants the home she had made, for his new paramour Minty. But through the book Rose realises her strengths and is more resilient to the situation than she thought she could be. I liked this book and as it was my Book Group’s choice for January, it was interesting to hear what other members of the group thought, especially as one member is male who left his wife for a young woman, he admitted!! LOL

Add to this a cast of quirky characters like Rose's eccentric mother, Ianthe, an ancient cat called Parsley, Richard, the man Poppy marries suddenly in Thailand, a suicidal ex-girlfriend of Sam's and Hal the man Rose might have taken up with if she hadn't chosen Nathan and you have a novel to make you laugh and cry in the same breath.

Funny, heart rending and totally absorbing, "Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman" is a book for those people who can honestly go with the old Spanish proverb, "Living well is the best revenge..."

PS. In 2010 I read 47 books and of them all I still love Emily Barr, who needs to write another book fast as I have read everything she has written and loved them all!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Life you Want by Emily Barr

‘The Life You Want,’ is Emily Barr's eighth novel and the sequel to her first novel Backpack. We pick up with Tansy a decade after Backpack and find out she's married to Max and has two children, Toby and Joe. In her opening sentence she tells us she thinks she's having a breakdown. Not only that but she drinks a lot, forgets to pick up her children and contemplates an affair with her son's teacher. But then out of the blue she has an email from a friend, Elly. who she met while backpacking. Elly asks her to go to India to help out in an orphanage. It seems, it’s the escape Tansy needs but Elly isn't all she seemed....

Even though I found Tansy an incredibly irritating character, I loved the book. It wasn't as good as The Sisterhood which was fabulous but it was a really enjoyable read. I loved the descriptions of Indian towns and what it's like to travel in India and, I admit, it sounded nothing like I expected it to sound. Like Tansy when I imagine India I think of poor people begging on the streets the whole time. Emily didn't describe it like that at all. Now I want to go to Pondicherry it sounded wonderful.

The book is written in first-person which was enjoyable because we got all of Tansy's thoughts. While I say I found her irritating, at least she admitted she was a rubbish mother and wasn't cut out to live in London forever with a steady job. It still didn't stop me thinking she was selfish though for leaving her husband and children to go off to India. She kept saying she wasn't like her alcoholic mother but she was. I alternated between liking Tansy and wanting to slap her. She was selfish to leave her kids but I liked her honesty. She's definitely an anti-heroine and is like Marmite - you'll either love her or hate her.

As well as Tansy's point-of-view we regularly read blog posts from a woman in the US called Alexia who is adopting a child from India named Sasika. We follow her on her journey, through her blog posts, all the way - even when everything goes topsy-turvy. I would have liked a few more blog posts from Alexia because it was a great part of the story and helped,also, with the main plot of the story. The ending seemed slightly rushed. Apart from that, I really enjoyed the book. I didn't find it as much of a page-turner as The Sisterhood but it was another great read from Emily and I look forward to her next. She is one of my favourite authors.


Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Kite Runner

When this book first came out for some reason I didn’t fancy reading it but, as it was my reading groups choice this last month I read it and loved it and wondered why I hadn’t read it before.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini explores the nature  of friendship, of forgiveness and of redemption, set against the turbulent background of his native Afghanistan.

The son of a rich and popular merchant, Amir leads a privileged life, wanting only to please his beloved but demanding father, Baba, and to play with Hassan, the child of Ali, Baba’s lifelong servant. Both Amir and Hassan are motherless. They spend almost all their time together, playing games and sharing stories in their favourite pomegranate tree. An encounter with Assef, the local bully, in which Hassan springs to Amir’s defence has appalling consequences, destroying their friendship and driving Amir to desperate measures to rid himself of Hassan, measures which result in a puzzling reaction from his father. When Ali and Hassan decide to leave of their own accord, Amir’s relief is short lived; he knows that his cowardice has been detected.

Baba and Amir are soon in flight themselves when the Russians invade. They flee first to Pakistan, then to America where Baba’s old life of influence and power is at an end.  They make a new life for themselves, embracing the San Francisco Afghan community, one of whom Amir eventually marries. But Amir remains haunted by his failure to protect  Hassan, unable to enjoy his success as a novelist and his marriage to Soraya, convinced that their inability to have a child and his father’s death are punishments visited upon him.

Amir is rescued by a phone call from Baba’s old friend, Rahim Khan, who offers him the chance of redemption. Once in Peshawar, where Rahim is dying, Amir learns that he is to find Hassan’s lost son. In so doing, he must summon his courage and face not only his old enemy, but also the destruction that has been wrought upon his homeland. In  return, he is rewarded with the truth about his relationship with Hassan and a greater understanding of his beloved Baba.

This is well worth a read, an excellent book, as I said I loved it!


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Brightness Falls From The Air - James Tiptree Jr

Awesome auroral displays and a strangely heady time-flurry were all that were generated when the two outer novas expanded and passed over the tiny remote planet of Damiem. There was little danger, in fact no more than a stunning light show whose radiance shimmered seductively and majestically, sending benign tremors through the bosies of the excited onlookers.

Now the last - the core nova - was ready to burst from the very heart of the shell that had once been a star. Only from Damiem could it be seen, but none of the witnesses who had eagerly gathered to watch the spectacle would ever forget the events of that night. Because when the time came to recount what they'd seen, there would be so few left to remember....

A reasonable sci-fi read that I got through in a few days, as it kept me interested enough to want to find out how it all panned out fairly quickly. The concept, characters and world were interesting but some of the plot was a little predictable.... didn't spoil it though. :0)

Registered with Book Crossing and available if anyone wants it. :0)