07 April, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Is a meme hosted by Shelia over at Book Journey. A weekly check in to see what you are currently reading and what is coming up. Head over to Shelia's blog to see what others are reading this week

What Am I Reading Now

As I finished two books this morning (one book, one audio) and haven't decided what is next, I'm only reading one book at the moment - feels very strange!

Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen. I think I am enjoying this more than any other Jane Austen I've read. I watched the movie (Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant one )the last week and I have the BBC mini series to watch as well.

What I read last week.

Three finishes this week! Goodreads now tells me I am only one book behind schedule to read the 100 I want to get through this year.

So Much For That - Lionel Shriver. On the eve of leaving his old life behind - including wife and children if they don't want to come - Shephard is told his wife has cancer. All plans are put on hold as instead they battle the cancer with inadequate health insurance.
Shriver is never a comfortable read, but always compelling. For the most part this is a depressing book, but in the last 50 pages it changes completely. Well worth sticking with it to the end.

The Household Guide to Dying - Debra Adelaide. I found it interesting that at the same time I was reading a book about someone battling cancer (So Much For That), I was also listening to one about someone dying from cancer. Two very, very different books about the same topic. This was lighter and a lot less depressing than So Much For That, but just as thought provoking.

The Bookstore - Deborah Meyler. I picked this up on due to a Monday post. Wish I could remember who is was because I loved it. Thoughtful and intelligent chick lit!

So what are you reading this week? Let me know!

Book Review: The Bookstore

From Goodreads: Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn’t look brighter. Until she finds out that she’s pregnant.
Esme’s boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful, and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme—just before she tries to tell him about the baby—she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship, while finding a part-time job to make ends meet. But that is easier said than done, especially on a student visa.
The Owl is a shabby, second-hand bookstore on the Upper West Side, an all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke; Chester, who hyperventilates at the mention of Lolita; George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism; and a motley company of the timeless, the tactless, and the homeless. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her? Even when Mitchell, repentant and charming, comes back on the scene?
A rousing celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, read, and live in them, The Bookstore is also a story about emotional discovery, the complex choices we all face, and the accidental inspirations that make a life worth the reading.

Thoughts: I love books like this if for no other reason than I want to believe there are places like The Owl. Places where someone can find refuge and discover a bunch of quirky but kind people who immediately take them into their group and love and protect them. I also love it for the fact that it crept up on me. I enjoyed it from the start, but at some stage I found myself not just enjoying it, but loving it. Wanting nothing more than to read it, to find out what happens. For me, it's chick lit masquerading as something more - that rarest of books, really good, intelligent chick lit.
I found the characters lovable, frustrating, pretentious, honest and real. At times there was a danger of a couple of them being a little two dimensional, but you don't always get to know everything about them, although there are hints of there being more. Luke is a perfect example. He comes across as slightly aloof and judgemental , but every now and then you get snippets of something more. However, since the book is told in the first person from Esme point of view and there is never a convenient out pouring of life story from Luke, you never get more than hints. I actually applaud this type of restraint. You know what Esme knows and quite frankly, that will have to do. 
I found the character of Mitchell quite interesting in the end. It is very easy to cast him as the pompous, arrogant rich kid who cares nothing for anyone but himself. You wonder what Esme sees in him. But his encounters with her just before and after the baby are born had me wondering whether once again there is more there than you think. I can't say without giving too much away, but in reading other reviews no one else seems to be thinking along the lines I am. If you have read this, please leave me a message with an email address so I can talk to you about it - I'd like to know someone else sees what I do!

Book Review: The Household Guide to Dying

From Goodreads: "As I resigned myself to the fact that the latest Household Guide I'd written would be my last, I conceived in a flash the best idea ever. I rang Nancy and left a message. 'Think of the title,' I said. 'How catchy does The Household Guide to Dying sound?'"

When Delia Bennet–author and domestic advice columnist–is diagnosed with cancer, she knows it's time to get her house in order. After all, she's got to secure the future for her husband, their two daughters and their five beloved chickens. But as she writes lists and makes plans, questions both large and small creep in. Should she divulge her best culinary secrets? Read her favourite novels one last time? Plan her daughters' far-off weddings?
Complicating her dilemma is the matter of the past, and a remote country town where she fled as a pregnant teenager, only to leave broken-hearted eight years later.
Researching and writing her final Household Guide, Delia is forced to confront the pieces of herself she left behind. She learns what matters is not the past but the present–that the art of dying is all about truly living.
Fresh, witty, deeply moving–and a celebration of love, family and that place we call home–this unforgettable story will surprise and delight the reader until the very last page.

Thoughts: What a lovely book. Funny, thoughtful, sad, perfect. Debra Adelaide has taken an incredibly sensitive subject and treated it, not with kid gloves, but raw emotion and honesty.
The Household Guide to Dying jumps around a bit, from the present day, to the near past and to the far past - but it's easy to follow and you need to know everything that happens in each of those times to understand what is happening now. The book is also confronting. What would you do if you were dying? What are the things you would have to finish, find answers for, leave behind? What book will you be reading, what music will be playing and what will be truly important. As Delia examines all of these questions, you find yourself asking the same questions.
I love and admired Delia quiet determination, her acceptance of what was happening and her desire to leave a bit of herself behind for her daughters. I love her lack of reverence for certain things and the feeling of freedom she expressed. When my time comes, I can only hope I do it with as much grace and dignity as she did.
A word of warning - if you have someone close to you battling cancer this book may cut close to the bone. It may require you to think about things you may not want to, but possibly should. It makes me think Adelaide either did some really good research or she is incredibly empathetic. Her portrayal of  someone dying appeared to me to be authentic and true, but not depressing. A wonderful book.

06 April, 2014

Book Review: So Much for That

From Goodreads: Shep Knacker has long saved for "the Afterlife," an idyllic retreat in the Third World where his nest egg can last forever. Exasperated that his wife, Glynis, has concocted endless excuses why it's never the right time to go, Shep finally announces he's leaving for a Tanzanian island, with or without her. Yet Glynis has some news of her own: she's deathly ill. Shep numbly puts his dream aside, while his nest egg is steadily devastated by staggering bills that their health insurance only partially covers. Astonishingly, illness not only strains their marriage but saves it.
From acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Lionel Shriver comes a searing, ruthlessly honest novel. Brimming with unexpected tenderness and dry humor, it presses the question: How much is one life worth?

Thoughts: Lionel Shriver is one of those authors that makes you uncomfortable. Her subject matters are not pretty and she doesn't sugar coat her stories at all. However I find them compelling and hard to put down. In So Much for That, we follow the story of Shep, a man who is all ready to leave his life for a simpler one - something he has planned and saved for for years. It all comes crashing down when not only does his wife get a cancer diagnosis, they discover their health insurance will in no way cover all the costs. Suddenly his nest egg starts shrinking, and fast.
To tell you the truth, Shep annoyed the hell out of me. His inability to say no to people was, at times, infuriating and nauseating. I wanted to shout at him to grow a back bone!
And really the book is pretty depressing. Along with Shep and Glynis' gruelling battle with cancer, Shep's best friend Jackson has a daughter with a rare genetic disorder which will lead to an early death and a marriage badly damaged by a not so good decision. There are a lot of people in various amounts of pain in this book.
But it is worth hanging on for the end. Suddenly in the last 50 pages in turns from being this dark, depressing tale to one of love, light and joy. And Shriver manages to do it without you feeling like you have been cheated or lied to. I ended the book with a smile on my face and that I did not expect.

Book Review: The Carnivorous Carnival

From Goodreads: For fans of that slippery author Lemony Snicket, Book the Ninth is here, and it's completely (but wonderfully) dreadful.When the Baudelaire Orphans finally make it out of Count Olaf's car trunk (from Book the Eighth), they wind up at the horribly perilous Caligari Carnival. Trying to avoid capture but desperate to find out more information about a possible surviving parent, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny pose as circus freaks, only to be humiliated in front of visitors and pushed to the brink of consumption by lions. Fortunately, though, the three discover a few surprises about fortune-telling Madame Lulu, who offers a faint clue about V.F.D. and even the Snicket family itself.
Snicket fans will be in Ninth Heaven. Again, it's a sad state of affairs for the Baudelaires, but there are some fascinating morsels of hope, plus a few small surprises that might help link it all together. With riveting suspense, wicked intentions, and gullible freaks, The Carnivorous Carnival is definitely an installment that can't be missed.

Thoughts: Thank goodness we managed to finish this before the school holidays! Fairly sure the kids would have held me hostage in the car if we hadn't.
The situations in these books seem to get more and more ridiculous, more and more entertaining and more and more thought provoking. You could read these books and get into quite a long philosophical discussion about right and wrong, the world according to children and adults and various other issues, or you can read them and just really enjoy the silliness and suspense.
The previous book, The Hostile Hospital left us with the three Baudelaire orphans in the trunk of the their arch enemies car - Count Olaf. They had discovered that one of their parents may have survived the fire - the first glimmer of hope in the tale of ongoing tragedies. In this they end up disguised as freaks at Caligari Carnival, still trying to evade the clutches of Count Olaf and his troupe.
There are only 4 books left in this series and I am hoping against hope that there is some sort of happy ending for the orphans. Book 10 is all ready to go for term 2!

31 March, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Is a meme hosted by Shelia over at Book Journey. A weekly check in to see what you are currently reading and what is coming up. Head over to Shelia's blog to see what others are reading this week

What Am I Reading Now

Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen. My attendance at the gym last week was minimal to say the least. I went once and it was a weights day so no reading on the treadmill for me. Hoping for a better week this week.

The Household Guide to Dying - Debra Adelaide. You know you are enjoying an audio book when you look for ways to stay in the car longer. This week is the last week of school and I know the chances of me listening to this over the holidays is minimal. I don't think I will finish it this week, but I wish I could - I'm really enjoying it.

So Much for That - Lionel Shriver I really enjoy Shriver's writing. I don't know if you can say you enjoy her books as they often deal with difficult subjects. This looks at a man and his wife's journey through the American medical system as she battles cancer with insurance that doesn't cover all it should. Engrossing.

What I read last week.

One finish this week, although I've yet to post a review.

 The Carnivorous Carnival - Lemony Snickett. The kids and I managed to knock this off this week. We won't start the next one until after the school holidays. (this week is the last week of term 1 - yay!) Hopefully I will get a review up this week.
The Freeing of Jonathon Mark - Nathan Gross
I actually finished this a couple of weeks ago but was able to post my review of it this week as part of a virtual tour for it. Not a bad book, worth checking out.

I gave up on...

Tiger Lily. A quarter of the way through the book and it still hadn't grabbed me so I returned it to the library. Maybe the next person who borrows it will have more luck.

So that was my week. How was yours?

25 March, 2014

Blog Tour Review: The Freeing of Jonathon Mark

Welcome to Little Black Marks' stop on The Freeing of Jonathon Mark virtual book tour.

Publisher: Paperback: Nathan Gross. Ebook: 7write (Dec 8, 2013)
ISBN-13: 979-1093074016
Category: Thriller, Paranoid Fiction
Available in: Print & ebook324 pages
Jonathon is a Taker, some type of modern day psych in the growing industry of modern grief. Takers treat people for all that ails them just by listening. In session, a Taker doesn’t speak. A Taker doesn’t move. A Taker doesn’t even blink. They take till their patients have got no more negativity to give.
A chance meeting throws a new patient into Jonathon’s life. A girl whose carefree lightness of being is in complete contrast to the average patient. She makes Jonathon realise he can no longer refuse to deal with how his job makes him sick, nor his own destructive vice.
Murder is his only way out, an action that leads him towards his own death and beyond. It is a path he hopes will lead him to his freedom.

Review:  As I said previously, I have recently taken a step back from blog tours as I simply did not need another deadline in my life. However, when I read the blurb for this, I couldn't resist - the whole concept intrigued me.
Let me just say from the outset, I don't like the character of Jonathon Mark. He is unsympathetic, has no compassion, is self centred and lacks empathy. The more I read however, the more I wondered if his job as a Taker made him like this, or was he good at his job because that's what he was like? I'm still not sure.
As the book is told from a first person point of view, you spend a lot of time with Jonathon. For me, this made reading very uncomfortable as I found him such an abhorrent character. At the same time it was kind of like looking at a train wreck, I couldn't tear myself away, and when I did, my thoughts kept drifting back to it until I had to pick the book up again and read a bit more.
For a while I was wondering where the book was heading and then certain events occur which require Jonathon to reassess his role as a Taker and what it actually means and what he hopes to achieve. At that point I suppose I started to develop a bit more sympathy for him, although I still wouldn't say I liked him.
Nathan Gross is an author with potential. At times the writing felt a bit clunky, jolting me out of my reading rhythm. However, I look forward to reading more of his work and seeing him develop a smoother, more seamless style. If he has other ideas as intriguing as this he is in for a stellar career.
The Freeing of Jonathon Mark is not a book for everyone. It's not a light, fluffy read, it will make you question things about our society and the how people best deal with their anger and issues. It's label of paranoid fiction is perfect. It will make you uncomfortable, but sometimes as a reader, you need that. Well worth checking out.

*I received a free copy of The Freeing of Jonathon Mark to review, but all ideas and comments are my own.

Nathan GrossAbout Nathan Gross:
Nathan is passionately obsessed with scratching the itch that is his absolute need to write. Whether it be in the form of novels or short stories, film / video scenarios, scripts or songs: writing keeps the demons at bay.
Nathan draws on and interprets the events that transpire around him, transforming minute observations and a distant, large view of the world into prose. He expresses at once his hopes and despairs, and equally his surprise and complete comprehension of events before, or as they unfold, if not always as everyone else sees them.
If his book ‘The Freeing of Jonathon Mark’ is part of his journey as a writer, then perhaps it traces his experiences chasing the plastic happiness of consumerist dreams. Perhaps it is also a study of how he opted out of these pursuits for a fresh start, in order to forge a new life where he can be free from empty conformity; to discover and further himself in the journey that is his life. New beginnings bring new ideas to draw upon and it goes without saying that we will find these thinkings in his subsequent writings.
His other published works include Ginger the Carrot, the first in a series of picture books for adults entitled Rotten Veggies, and the song and music video Tais Toi for the musician Monsieur Grandin. He is also the director and scenarist for a number of award winning short films. A collection of his works both written and visual are to be discovered at zamsteepa.com.
Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Nathan now resides in the south of France.
His short story ‘Grampy Joe’ won third prize in the Odyssey House Victoria 2012 short story competition.  You can read ‘Grampy Joe’ here.
Nathan Gross Website: http://zamsteepa.com/
The Freeing of Jonathan Mark Website: http://thefreeingofjonathonmark.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/zamsteepa
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nath.gross

The Freeing of Jonathon Mark virtual book tour is hosted by:

  You can check out the rest of the tour at these blogs:

March 4 -  So Many Precious Books This post has a GIVEAWAY!! Check it out!
March 5 -  Deal Sharing Aunt                                                          
March 6 - Deal Sharing Aunt  Guest post.
March 7 -  A Dream With a Dream Another GIVEAWAY!! Check it out!
March 12 - Let's Talk About Books                                          
March 13 -  Aspired Writer 
March 17 -  Princess & the Gummy Bear               
March 18 -  Manic Mama of 2                                        
March 20 - fuonlyknew GIVEAWAY again!
March 24 -  I'm A Voracious Reader                                  
March 25 -  Little Black Marks That's me!                                                       
March 26 -  Giveaways & Glitter                                                 
March 27 -  LifeWith the Stewarts      
March 27 -  The News in Books Interview with Nathan Gross
March 28 - The News in Books                                                      
March 31 - Room With Books Final stop and final GIVEAWAY!!