04 May, 2013
From Goodreads: Chickenfeed - As part of World Book Day 2006, Minette Walters took part in the Quick Reads initiative, designed to encourage developing readers and adult learners as they explore the exciting world of books. Chickenfeed, Walter's contribution, is a crackling tale based on the true story of the 'chicken farm murder' that took place in Blackness Road, Crowborough, East Sussex in December, 1924.
Although Norman Thorne never confessed to killing his girlfriend Elsie, he was tried and hanged for the crime. Minette's fictionalised account of their relationship is told from the points of view of both Elsie and Norman, from the time of their first meeting at chapel when Norman is 18 and Elsie is 22, until the eve of Norman’s trial for her murder just over four years later.
In the real-life case, an exchange of letters between the lovers, in which Elsie told Norman that she was pregnant, formed part of the evidence that suggested Norman's motive for murder. When the lovers grow apart, Elsie creates a fantasy to replace the reality of their fractured relationship. Meanwhile Norman has fallen for another woman yet cannot bring himself to tell Elsie that he no longer wants to marry her. Burrowing deep into an English legend, Walters creates a suspenseful tale of fiction based in fact, leaving it to the reader decide whether Norman was guilty of the heinous crime.
The Tinder Box - In the small village of Sowerbridge, Patrick O'Riordan has been arrested for the brutal murder of elderly Lavinia Fanshaw and her live-in nurse, Dorothy Jenkins. As shock turns to fury, the village residents form a united front against the O'Riordan family, while friend and neighbour Siobhan Lavenham remains convinced that Patrick has fallen victim to a prejudiced investigation. Jeopardizing her own position within the bigoted community, Siobhan stands firmly by his family in defense of the O'Riordan name.
Yet when terrible secrets about the O'Riordans' past are revealed, Siobhan is forced to question her loyalties. Could Patrick be capable of murder after all? Could his family's tales of attacks be devious fabrications? And if so, what other lies lurk beneath the surface of their world? As the truth unravels, it becomes clear that beneath a cunning façade, someone's chilling ambition is about to ignite
What I Thought: I really enjoyed these pared down stories by Minette Walters. As with many of her stories you are forced to look at things differently and realise things are not always what they seem. Chickenfeed in particular was excellent. Written specifically to encourage developing readers and adult learners, the language was kept simple and straightforward, adding to the feel of story. These two short books would be a great introduction for anyone wanting to read more crime fiction or Minette Walters.
From Goodreads: She ached for him. She longed for him. She missed the way he made her feel and how funny and smart and sexy she felt with him. And young. She missed the version of herself that she had left behind.At thirty-eight, Lizzie Quealy thinks she has things sorted: a happy relationship, a couple of gorgeous kids, a steadfast best friend and a career she loves. But when Lizzie bumps into Tom, an old flame from her globe-trotting twenties, her life begins to unravel.Tom is her 'unfinished business': the man she might have spent her life with, if things had gone a little bit differently. Ten years on, the spark is still there – but how far is Lizzie prepared to go to recapture it, and at what cost?Set in Melbourne, London and Bali, via Tokyo and the Trans-Siberian Express, The Happiness Show is a refreshingly honest story of love, fidelity and the messiness of second chances. Sexy and hilarious, it explores the rules and taboos of contemporary relationships – and what happens when they stand in the way of one woman's pursuit of happiness.
What I Thought: Hmmmm....not sure. It's not that I didn't enjoy this, but there is something about it that annoyed me and I'm not quite sure I can put my finger on it. Maybe it's my inability to truly understand why someone who is in a happy, stable, loving relationship is willing to risk it. If you do happen to come across your missed chance and it sends you into as big as a whirl as it did Lizzie, then I find it hard to buy that your current relationship is as wonderful as we are led to believe. And I cannot, no matter how hard I try, buy into it being ok to cheat on your partner - it's not - even if you are never caught.
Lizzie came across to me as selfish and willing to risk her marriage and friendships for a second chance at a earlier romance. If you don't take the book too seriously, then it's a fun, light holiday read. Other than that, I'm not a fan.
Challenges: Aussie Author challenge
From Goodreads: Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean - the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread - Les Misérables (1862) ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope - an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.
Thoughts: Les Miserables is over 1200 pages. It's a big ask to read, so I am breaking it down into smaller parts reading and reviewing each volume (there are 5), most probably with a break in between each one. You can read my review of book 1: Fantine, here.
Book two sees us investigate Cosette's life with the Thénadier's and her rescue from them by Jean Valjean. It also includes a looooooooong history of the battle of Waterloo and various other events that are not actually part of the story. As such I ended up skipping large chunks. While I do worry I may miss things by doing this, I know that if I don't skim over the bits I find tedious I won't read the book at all.
This part of the story fills in a large chunk of what was missed in the movie and the musical - the intervening years between Cosette being taken from the Thénadier's and her reaching adulthood. The length of the book does mean it's impossible for the makers of the movie and stage production to include everything and I admit I don't feel that anything that happened here was necessary to the story.
This takes me to 40% of the book - almost half way! Hopefully there won't be as big a gap between this and the next book Marius.
28 April, 2013
|Land's Edge: A Coastal Memoir - Tim Winton|
In this beautifully delicate memoir, Tim Winton writes about his obsession with what happens where the water meets the shore – about diving, dunes, beachcombing – and the sense of being on the precarious, wondrous edge of things that haunts his novels.
Complemented by the breathtaking photographs of Narelle Autio, Land's Edge is a celebration of the coastal life and those who surrender themselves to it.
What I Thought: Every time I read a Winton book I am amazed. The man's talent is boundless. He has a uniquely Australian voice without sounding overdone or ocker - a mature voice which retains the simplicity and straight forwardness of Australia. And in Land's Edge, he writes part of my childhood. The duality of suburb and coast, where coast makes you more alive, feel more, brighter colours and days that go too fast.
A quintessential Australian suburban life...But again, when I dream, when I remember...I don't see the picket fences and the Holden in the driveway... or hear the whine of the mowers...on rare and dreaded family slide nights,...I have to strain to recognise myself in Hush Puppies and a mohair turtleneck...Because in my memory of childhood there is always the smell of bubbling tar, of Pinke Zinke,the briny smell of the sea. It is always summer and I am on Scarborough Beach, blinded by light, with my shirt off and my back a map of dried salt and peeling sunburn.Another review I read described this book as a love letter to the sea, which is a perfect description. At just over 100 pages, it's a quick read, but once again Winton's prose is pure poetry. In chapter three there is a passage about swimming with sharks which had me enthralled - not a terrifying, heart stopping, over dramatic description, but one of wonder and awe that these creatures should fill us with.
The shark alters course and the real shock hits you as you begin to see the size of its body. The colossal flanks are delicately spotted, as mesmeric as an Aboriginal dot painting, and at first sight as intimidating as a ship's hull. Astonishingly silent, unhurried and seemingly in slow motion, but hard work to keep up with for too long. Festooned with remoras, suckers, cleaners, tiny opportunists. Spangled and speckled by the light on the moving surface of the water, it makes you smile around your snorkel.Like Tim Winton, I am lucky enough to live close enough to the sea to experience it every day, and like him, it feeds my soul, soothes me and touches me daily. His description of Australians relationship with the sea is spot on.
Australians do not go to 'the seaside'...We go to the beach with a mixture of gusto and apprehension, for our sea is something to be reckoned with. We are reared on stories of shark attacks, broken necks from dumpings in the surf and the spectre of melanoma. I suspect we go because of these warnings, at times, and not simply despite them.Challenges: Aussie Author Challenge
13 April, 2013
|Lords and Ladies - Terry Pratchett|
*But with tons of style.
What I Thought: Having finished the 6 books I bought on holidays, I turned to my kindle as I pondered my next read. Should I return to Les Miserables? Read the sequel to Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall? Try something completely unknown? Then my husband said Pratchett - Pratchett is perfect holiday reading. And he was right. (don't tell him, I don't want him getting ideas!)
Lords and Ladies sees a return to Lancure and the witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick as the prepare for Magrats wedding to the king. But as usual, all is not well. The elves are trying to break through from their world to the Discworld. And despite everyting you've heard before - Elves are not nice!
Challenges: eBook Challenge
|Ten Hail Marys - Kate Howarth|
What I Thought: This is a book I picked up off the shelving trolley at work. It tells the story of Kate Howarth and her fight to keep her baby as an unwed mother in the 1960's. It details her life as a child passed from family member to family member at the drop of a hat, for no apparent reason. Like several other books I have read recently it provides a glimpse at a life so different from my own and situations I know I will never find myself in.
Howarth portrays her family as one that holds many secrets and troubles. Aunts that are abused, mothers that are really grandmothers and prodigal children that appear and disappear on a whim. Given her background, Howarth's strength in the face of everyone (including her mother, her boyfriend and the nuns at the home for unwed mothers) trying to make her give up her baby, is inspirational.
As is often the case with true life books, the end isn't quite what you expect, but it left me with a great admiration for Kate Howarth and a want to know more. There is mention of a sequel called Pray For Us Sinners, but I am unable to find a publication date. All I know is that I will be keeping an eye out for it.
Challenges: 13 in 13 Challenge, Aussie author Challenge
|Blood - Tony Birch|
What I thought: After reading his two anthologies of short stories in one day, I couldn't wait to start on Birch's first novel - Blood.
Blood is the story of two kids - Jesse and his younger sister Rachel. They lie a nomadic and unsettled life with their mother Gwen. Gwen does not keep the best company and her association with Ray leads to the three of them running across the country in the hunt for safety.
Once again Birch's writing pulls the reader right into the story. You are truly there as Jesse tries to protect his little sister. You feel Rachel's continuing devotion to Gwen and at the same time witness Jesse's growing distance from his mother and the choices she makes. I loved Jesse and Rachel - so much so I wanted to pull them out of the story and give them the loving stable home they deserved. The ending is as messy as real life, with no real resolution offered to the reader. However, I choose to believe Jesse wins through eventually, saving him and his sister from what could be a tragic life.
Challenges: 13 in 13 Challenge, Aussie author Challenge