Thursday, 11 February 2016

Books in Books

There are a whole swath of books out there that talk about books - books ON books - it's a shelf on goodreads and in many bookshops. I love books on books and I'm hoping to dive into Barry Jones' latest effort, The Shock of Recognition, sooner rather than later.

There is another categoryabout books like Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
of books

But this particular post is about Books IN Books.

My reading over the past couple of months have had an inordinate amount of books being referenced within another book.

Books IN books is a completely different creature to books ON books.

Books ON books covers two types of stories. It can be a book that pays homage to another book (The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield as a love letter to Jane Eyre) or it can be a memoir about someone's experiences with a range of books and reading (The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe).

Books IN books however, refers to the casual mention of another book that the main character of the book you are currently reading is reading.
The book can be significant in giving you a clue about the characters personality, interests or even a hint to plot development within the book you're reading. But you can read the book in your hand without knowing anything about the other book. It won't affect your enjoyment of the story.

But if you have read the book being referenced, you may gain a little added pleasure and/or knowledge. It can add another layer of meaning to the story in front of you.

In recent months I have discovered:

The Death of Ivan Illyvich in Being Mortal
Bonjour Tristesse in Those Who Stay and Those Who Leave
Mila 18 in Reckoning
Crossing to Safety in Love and Hunger
Pilgrims Progress in Little Women

I read Mila 18 during my teens (during my Leon Uris phase!) - Magda also read it in her teens and found it confronting in light of her fathers war history. Because I had also read the book, I understood exactly what she meant and how it must have affected her.

I'm not sure if I will ever be able to cope with the overt Christian content of Pilgrim's Progress, but Alcott gives us plenty of detail about the book as the story goes along, so I feel like I know as much as I need.
But I haven't read either Ivan Illyich and Bonjour Tristesse. And I'm dead keen to.

I read Crossing to Safety thanks to Charlotte Wood's rave review and referencing of it in her book about cooking and eating. (I started reading Love and Hunger about four years ago, then it got 'lost' in my kitchen. I found it again during our move last year & I finally finished it during my summer hols - which is why it still counts as a recent read :-).

Have you read any of these books?
And have you come across books in books that you've felt compelled to read simply because your favourite character read it?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My Folio Society edition of Little Women
How to review a much loved classic that you have read more times than you care to remember?

Little Women was such a big part of my childhood.
My mum introduced me to her copies of the books at a very early age. They spoke to me. They moved me. I couldn't get enough of them.

I was one of four sisters. I desperately wanted to be spunky and adventurous like Jo, but I suspected I was really more like responsible, reserved Meg.

Looking back I see that I often acted like Meg but felt like Jo.

Like Meg, I was the eldest daughter.

All of you other eldest children in a large family know straight away what I mean by that. There was a responsibility and an expectation and a division that kept you slightly separate from the rest of the family. You were never old enough to be on the 'adults' table and you felt too mature to be always stuck on the 'kids' table. The eldest of a large family sits in a weird nowhere man's zone throughout their entire childhood.

Dodie Masterson's illustrations
The eldest always goes first at everything. They have no role model or guidance; they have no idea how they will make it through. It's one new, uncharted territory after another.

I know the youngest complain about the bossy older child and that they never get to go first. Very valid points.
They get to follow in the eldest's footsteps, ignore the experience of the eldest or go off in a completely different direction. But they do so knowing they will come out the other side eventually, just like the eldest did. The eldest child never gets to experience that comforting feeling of surety.

This constant lack of comfort and safety can make the eldest fearful and bossy. The want to share what they've learnt so you don't have to go through the hard stuff they experienced. They want to make it easier for you. But not too easy! Whatever you do, don't try to gain a privilege before the age at which the eldest attained it!

In all of these ways, I am like Meg. I understand her worries, her love of traditions and her conservative approach to life. I feel for her insecurities and doubts.

But I take many of my beliefs and ideas from Jo.

Like Jo, I resented the confines of feminine attire.

"It's bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boys' games, and work, and manners. I can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy, and it's worse than ever now, for I'm dying to go and fight with Papa, and I can only stay at home and knit like a poky old woman."

My old abridged edition of Little Women
The only dress I wore from age 5 - 15 was my school uniform. I also believed that I could do any physical activity that a boy could. I climbed trees, rode bikes, wrestled, trampolined, played cricket and ran fast.
I was a reader and hopeful writer, like Jo. I had no intention of ever getting married or having kids. I wanted to explore the world, stay single and be totally independent.

Yet, I was painfully shy like Beth in my younger years and played the piano. And like Amy, I was a bit vain and desirous of pretty things. And I had a thing about the size of my nose!

This rather long trip down memory lane, simply highlights the enduring appeal of Little Women.
We can all see a little bit of ourselves in the characters of these four girls. The times may have changed, but the feelings haven't.

However, as a child I found the goodness of the girls a little trying.
Looking back I can see that I was actually envious of the closeness and loving kindness that prevailed in the March family. They seemed impossibly good, but oh how I wished I could be a little more like them.

Every time I reread Little Women I come away determined to do better, be better, act better.

This reread also showed me how much of my work/life balance ideal has come from Mrs March:

"Don't you feel that it is pleasanter to help one another, to have daily duties which make leisure sweet when it comes."
"Work is wholesome, and there is plenty for everyone; it keeps us from ennui and mischief, is good for health and spirits, and gives us a sense of power and independence better than money or fashion."
"Only, don't go to the other extreme and delve like slaves. Have regular hours for work and play, make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well."

A big thank you to Suey, Jenni and Kami for hosting the #LittleWomenRAL.

It has been a wonderful nostalgic journey back through my childhood dreams and desires.

And my motto for the rest of the day is to be as good and as charitable and as kind as the March girls!

My Good Wives review
My Little Men review
My Jo's Boys review

This post is part of my Women's Classic Literature Challenge.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie - A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss

I first heard about Radioactive during Non-Fiction November last year. It sounded delicious and exactly my cup of tea, so I put my order in at work straight away.

For my Yr 12 HSC (many, many moons ago) Science Depth Study I chose to learn about Marie Curie.
In those pre-computer, pre-internet days, I had to rely on my local library and my science teacher to source the information I needed.

I devoured impossibly obtuse science texts and difficult, dry biographies. I became obsessed despite of, or maybe because of, the Herculean nature of my undertaking.

But it wasn't the science that grabbed my attention so decidedly.

It was the fact that Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel prize for science and then the first person - male or female - to win it twice. It was rejoicing in a woman tackling a 'man's job' and doing it well - very, very well. It was the romantic working partnership with Pierre. It was the generational love of science they fostered in their daughters and grandchildren as they all followed in their scientific footsteps. It was the complicated, ethically fraught philosophy of discovery, patents, shared knowledge and how to use this new science - for good or for bad.
And it was also the frustration of hindsight. Watching Marie and Pierre work day in, day out with no protection around radioactive substances, knowing what we know now, how they were in fact, hastening their own deaths.

When Radioactive turned up in the new year I was thrilled to see the oversized, colourful, textured cover peeking out of the eco-bubbles. I was instantly transported back to my 17 yr old self - the enthusiasm I had for learning and knowledge, the belief that I could do anything and the birth of one of my many obsessions that has lasted a lifetime.

If not for Katie's Reluctant Romantic challenge to read outside my usual genres to find a new love, Radioactive may have lingered on my TBR pile, like so many other wonderful books *sigh* despite my obsession with the topic.

However Radioactive does not fit neatly into the graphic non-fiction definition. In fact, it doesn't fit neatly into any known genre! Redniss does not use the comic strip format, but her art work is an integral part of the story and she created her own font for the text.

It is non-fiction - part biography, part scientific treatise, part philosophical discussion.
And it is beautiful.

Redniss uses a process called cyanotype printing to create these images, which she describes in the notes at the back of the book. She also uses photography, drawings and maps.

I guess it doesn't matter, in the end, what genre this is (unless you're trying to shelve it in a library or book store!)

All you really need to know is that this book is bloody brilliant.
It satisfied everything my 17 (and my 47) yr old self could ever want from this topic. It was knowledge, it was beautiful and it touched my heart. It also left me craving more.

If you know of any other books that treats history, biography, science and philosophy like this one, please let me know. I want more!

This is my new genre to love!
Whatever it is.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Reluctant Romantic - Graphic Novels

Katie @Doing Dewey is hosting a Reluctant Romantic challenge throughout February. The idea is to embrace a genre that you normally avoid.

Our first post is called Genre Speed Dating - what genre are you getting to know this month? Why do you want to give it a chance?

February is going to be graphic novel month on Brona's Books.

When I was a kid, visiting my Nan and Pop in their wonderful old rambling home in Bellingen was a real treat for several, very childish reasons.

One: the old bikes and scooters that we would ferret out from under the house. My sisters and I then spent the holidays racing each other around the house on these tyre-less, rough as guts, rusty old, leftovers from my mother's childhood.

Two: the giant orange tree in the backyard that seemed to be permanently loaded with fruit. To access the fruit, we had to climb up Pop's old wooden ladder onto the roof of the shed. The roof was a sweet mushy crush of rotten fruit and leaves. Pop had made a hook for us to pull down the fruit from the top of the tree. We always shared some of the fruit with the chooks in the pen below. To this day the smell of overripe oranges instantly takes me back to this place and time.

Three: my uncle's old comic books lived in one of the bedside tables in mum and dad's room. They were a mix of Archie comics and Marvel superman and batman comics. They had the usual musty smell that all books in the tropical north develop over time. They were yellowed with age, but we loved them. We would divvy them up equally, then retreat to one of the daybeds scattered around the huge verandah to read them.

It's the only time I have read (and loved) comic books.

During my early highschool years I discovered the Tintin books - I loved their mix of history and irreverence.
But Asterix bored me. And that was the end of me and graphic books.

As an adult I have tended to look down my book-snobbish nose at all graphic novels as not being proper books and therefore not worthy of my attention.

My plans for February are to reach out to graphic novels to rediscover some of my childhood love.

I will be focusing on my strengths - history, classics, bio's and non-fiction.

Any suggestions are most welcome.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Stories and Shout Outs

My Christmas in Summer challenge proved to me that my attention span for reading challenges has a two month expiry date!

I happily sailed through 13/17 books in two months, but then I baulked.

I wanted to read things that weren't on my preordained list, and I wanted to read them NOW!

I also have the same problem with series.

I prefer not to read them all in a row. I need to have breaks inbetween books. It keeps them fresher somehow.

I confirmed this over the summer with the Elena Ferrante books and Harry Potter.

I read books 2 and 3 of the Ferrante's back to back. Big mistake!
By the time of I got to the end of book 3 I was ready to throw it across the room. I burnt out. I needed to get out of Naples - now!

I read the first three Harry Potter's in December, but I read something else inbetween each one. I loved rereading them. But I knew I wasn't ready to move onto no. 4 yet.

I've learnt my lesson.

Stick to readalongs and only join in short reading challenges!

With this in mind, I'm going to jump in on The Broke and The Bookish's Cocktail Conversation for this week. 

What is one book you recommend pretty much across the board -- regardless of genre or what the person normally reads?

Lately, my go-to recommendation has been Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. 
It's easy to read, fun, clever, genuine and suitable for young, old, male, female and everyone inbetween!

But as of this week, I will be recommending The Midnight Watch by David Dyer to everyone I can reach. 
I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be intrigued by the mystery at the heart of this story about human frailty and the Titanic.

What's your favourite book to recommend to others?

Finally, this week's shout-out is purely and simply all about self-promotion. 

I edit the History, Memoir, Biography category of the Australian Women Writer's Challenge. This link is to my 2015 wrap-up post.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

Subtitled A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian, The Midnight Watch is an incredible, engrossing story by a debut Australian novelist.

Dyer attempts to understand how the Captain and the crew of the Californian, the ship within sight of the sinking Titanic, failed to respond to the Titanic's distress flares - eight in total - until the following morning, when it was all too late.

John Steadman is the reporter who sniffs out that something is amiss. He becomes obsessed with unearthing what really happened on board the Californian that night. He needs to know the how and why...and so do we.

I couldn't put this book down.
I desperately hoped all the way through that somehow Dyer was going to rewrite history and give us a happier ending.

I desperately hoped all the way through that this was not going to be one of those stories that didn't actually answer any of the questions at the end. I really needed to know how this could happen.

Dyer has written a believable, well-researched, deeply psychological study into the nature of human frailty.

He delves into childhood trauma, personality traits and unconscious behaviours.

The real tragedy here is watching history fall through the gaps of miscommunication, assumptions and preconceived ideas. It's about how two men - two decent, flawed men - with contradictory, deeply held beliefs about the role of command, loyalty and leadership failed.

And an answer is provided. One that makes sense; one that feels real.

Due for publication in March with Penguin Australia.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Little Women Readalong

I've been wanting to reread Louisa May Alcott's Little Women series for a long time now.

This readalong, hosted by Suey, Kami & Jenni, has been all the incentive I needed to pull out my lovely 2007 Folio Society copy of Little Women.

I've been reading (and watching movie versions) of Little Women since I was about ten.

I've lost count of the number of times I have read these four books about the March girls.

However I've only read them once as an adult - sometime in my late twenties - this reread is long overdue.

I say four books because my editions of Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo's Boys are all separate books.

Most modern editions and movies combine the first two stories into one. Goodreads refers to Good Wives as book 1.5 in the series.

Since I have all four books, I will review them in four separate posts.

My copies of Good Wives and Jo's Boys are my mum's books from the late 50's.
Just seeing these lovely old covers again brings back so many sweet memories of reading these books - in my childhood bedrooms, under trees, on verandahs, sprawled over the various chairs, lounges and trampolines that decorated my youth.

My only problem is that I have discovered that my 1976 childhood edition of Little Men is abridged.
I hope to rectify this matter by the time I get to book three!

I say, my only problem, but I have several this month.

It's my birthday month, which is always a busy time for me catching up with family and friends. I also have an incredible number of family and friends with birthdays this month.

In addition, I seem to have signed up for more than just one reading challenge this month.

I'm joining in Katie @Doing Dewey's Reluctant Romantic challenge. I have selected graphic novels as my genre and plan to read a graphic version of Little Women in an attempt to combine events!

Katie is also hosting a non-fiction readalong of Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed the World and Science which I will attempt to join in if I can source the book in time.

And just this morning I spotted this - Ranty Runt of a Reader is hosting a readalong of Agnes Grey throughout February.

I want to do them all!

But for now, here we go with Little Women,
'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

Wish me luck.

Monday, 1 February 2016

So Big by Edna Ferber

So Big was my lucky #CCspin 11 book.

It ended up on my classic TBR pile because it was a Pulitzer prize winning book from 1924.

I'm trying to read my way through as many of the prize winning books as I can. So I was delighted with this spin choice.

I also had the pleasure of reading So Big in the company of Christy @A Good Stopping Point.
Her review is here.

First up, I loved the setting for So Big.

Chicago in the late 1800's is not a period of American history I am very familiar with, so I was fascinated to learn of the Dutch emmigrants who settled in the area as truck gardeners (or market gardeners as we would say in Australia).

High Prairie (now a community area of Chicago called Roseland) was home to a group of hard working Dutch families in the 1880's who eked out a living in this strange new land.
It was a tough life. Babies died, it was bitterly cold, it rained too much, it didn't rain enough, the days were long, life and education were ruled by the seasons, people suddenly got sick and died, there was never enough of anything.

Into this life, waltzes Selina Peake, the new school teacher with her dreams of beauty and adventure.

Her story didn't really go as I expected it to.

After getting to know Selina so well in the early stages of the book, her subsequent marriage and family life seemed to go by very quickly, and suddenly, her son, Dirk (a.k.a. SoBig because of a cute childhood game) was grown up and we were seeing the world, and Selina, through his eyes.

I thought this was going to be a story about pioneer life and women's issues. Instead it turned into a story about the privileged, entitled next generation taking the older hard working generation for granted. It was actually quite modern with its themes of living in the moment and embracing the beauty to be found in the everyday stuff of life.

I wasn't expecting a generational saga in such a slim volume.

Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy it.

I loved it.

Apparently, Ferber based Selina on a real life person called Widow Antje Paarlberg (whose family home has been preserved by her ancestors in South Holland, Illinois below).

Ferber wrote about 40 books and plays. Many of these have been turned into movies, including Show Boat, Giant, Cimarron, Saratoga Trunk and, of course, So Big. Who knew?

Isn't it curious how someone who was so popular and well-known in the arts community at one time, can disappear so completely from the scene in just one generation? In fact, it sounds like the ideal plot for a Ferber story!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Just a Queen by Jane Caro

It has been a long wait between drinks in this Tudor trilogy by Jane Caro. But the wait has been worth it.

Just A Girl was a tremendously good read in 2011. Four years later, Just A Queen surpassed my very high expectations.

Caro has written a thoroughly researched, thoroughly convincing version of Elizabeth's first 25 years or so as Queen of England.

She uses the same device as she did in Just A Girl, whereby Elizabeth reminisces about the events leading up to the main purpose of the story.

In Just A Queen this purpose is all about the execution of Queen Mary of Scotland in 1587.

Caro has written a novel based on real events. Some of her dialogue references authentic documents, but most of the emotion, motivations and discussions are fictionalised.

Elizabeth is a strong, dynamic, complex protagonist. Caro takes the time to show us how daunting it must have been for a woman to rule during such patriarchal times. She gives us some insight into the daily life of women during Elizabethan times - just enough to make us truly thankful for our more enlightened, modern times.

Just A Queen ticks all my boxes - fabulous fictionalised history, a fascinating female character, well written and an engaging story from start to finish.

This book is classified as teen/YA, but it's perfectly satisfying fare for anyone who loves their Tudor/Elizabethan history in any way shape of form.

I just hope that Caro doesn't make us wait four more years for the final book in this "big, hairy, audacious" trilogy.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Stories and Shout Outs

During my recent summer holidays I kept thinking about all those wonderful books I had read before I started blogging (in 2009).

All those glorious, wonderful reads that remain un-reviewed by moi!

I'd love to bring these gems to light but so many of them are just faint memories of a time gone by. They are little more than a warm feeling, a fond regard or a happy glow.

I hope to reread them all one day - those 5-star books that have taken up permanent residence in my heart.

The danger, of course, is that they wont remain 5-star reads. That they were books that spoke to me at a certain time in my life but are no longer significant or relevant.

A few 5-star books have already stood the test of time and several pre-blog rereads including:

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Dark Palace by Frank Moorhouse

These 5-star pre-blog reads are on my TBRR (to be reread) wishlist:

Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Middlemarch by George Eliot
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (this book is up there as one of my all-time favourite books. I still think about the characters and wonder what they're all up to.)
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Centennial by James Michener (this one may be pure fancy. I watched the TV series as a tweenie, then decided to read the book at age 13. It was my first proper adult read. I adored it, and it will always hold a place in my heart for being the first :-)

Remember this?
Have you ruined the memory a much loved book by rereading it?


As some of you already know, I'm eagerly awaiting February (not just because it's my birthday month!) but because of the Little Women/Good Wives readalong being hosted by Suey, Jenni and Kami.

Lisa @TBR313 has been helping me to get in the mood with this fascinating post about The Selected Letters of Louisa May Alcott.

Brian @Babbling Books also reminded me why I love A Room With A View so much.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Reluctant Romantic

Katie @Doing Dewey is hosting an unusual reading challenge throughout the month of February called The Reluctant Romantic.

Is there a genre you’d like to read more of in 2016? Or a genre that you’ve never given a chance?

The Reluctant Romantic event this February is the time to do something about it!

Lasting all of February, there will be optional discussion topics and check-ins every Saturday and a twitter chat at the end of the month.

To join in, just post a sign-up wherever your online home is and share what genre you’ll be getting to know this month.

Schedule and Discussion Topics

Feb 6 – Genre Speed Dating – What genre are you getting to know this month? Why do you want to give it a chance?
Feb 13 – It’s Complicated – Is there anything that keeps you from reading this genre more?
Feb 20 – Young Love – Have you read the genre you’re trying before? How was your first experience with that genre this month?
Feb 27 – Relationship Status – Where is your relationship with the genre you tried? Will you read more of this genre in the future?

I have two possible genre's in mind...I just have to decide in the next few days which one it will be.

Poetry or graphic novels?

I love the poems I've been exposed to over the years, but I don't always think to seek them out or take the time to delve deeply into their meaning.

I used to love reading comics when I was little, but I tend to steer clear of graphic novels as an adult reader. They don't seem like proper reading somehow.

Monday, 25 January 2016

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I am beginning to suspect that I am becoming a cranky old(er) woman!

Stuff, that never used to annoy me, annoys me beyond belief these days. My legendary patience feels stretched thin, ready to snap at any minute.

Sadly, along with dirty socks on the floor and empty milk bottles left in the fridge, many teen/YA books have come to irritate me and bore me with their same-old excuses for a story!

Even a much loved classic.

Perhaps if I had read I Capture the Castle at the tender young age of 17 yrs 11 & 3/4 months (instead of the tetchy older age of 47 yrs and 11 & 3/4 months) I might have found this as adorable and delightful as so many others have found it.

I'm not so far gone that I couldn't appreciate the sweet descriptions and quaint turns of phrase. I even smiled (rather ruefully, I confess) at the underlying gentle humour.

But, ultimately, it was just too light and fluffy for my more seasoned tastes. It's innocence and romance failed to captivate me.

Normally I stop reading a 2 star book, but there were times, at the start, where I thought it could be a three. It was almost there.

But then I began to skim. I skipped, I flicked through. I lost interest.

But I can't be too far gone in my cranky old woman ways, as part of the reason this book made it into my TBR pile a few years ago, was due to it's gorgeous cover. And I still think the cornflowers and vintage dress are rather lovely.

If this is one of your favourite childhood reads, please tell me.
I'd love to know what charmed you. I'd love to know what I was missing out on.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Reckoning by Magda Szubanski

I began Reckoning knowing about all the rave reviews.

This can be a good thing or a very bad thing. Expectations are high and it can be hard to meet them.

However, in this case, there was nothing to fear.

From the very first sentence I was in wow! mode.
I was impressed; I was enthralled.

Szubanski has written a celebrity memoir way above and beyond the usual fare or remembrances. Perhaps it has something to do with the Polish word rozumiesz - understand - which dominates Magda's narrative.

This memoir is not just about memory and truth. It is about understanding - the drive to really know and understand what happened and why and what its impact has been and continues to be. And with that understanding comes a sense of judgement - a reckoning - was it wrong or right - is there blame to be apportioned? Guilt to be felt?

This story is very personal,
He needed to forget. I needed to remember. For him, only the present moment would set him free. For me, the key lies buried in the past.
But it also seeks to find a universal truth,
She knows the horrible truth that, while suffering is universal, the world cares more about some people's suffering than others. 
This is the memoir of a woman who has worked hard to work things out. An intelligent, caring woman who has been brave enough to expose her soul, her fears and her inner life for us all to see.

Reckoning is one of the best memoirs I've read in quite some time.

I'd love to know what you think about this book and read your reviews.
Please feel free to leave the link to your review in the comments below. Unlike Wordpress, Blogger does not provide a live link. However you can create your own live link by using this simple code...
<a href="url of your post">your blog name</a>

Saturday, 23 January 2016

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Moriarty, quite simply, writes consistently good stories about relationships and everyday life. She captures characters so perfectly that they all feel like your very own family and friends.

She covers topics and issues that have touched all us at some point in our lives.

In What Alice Forgot we tackle the whole IVF baby should we/shouldn't we/for how long conundrum.
Emotional ambiguity and shades of grey are what Moriarty excels at. She doesn't preach or suggest what's right and wrong. She lets her characters fumble through these emotional land mines the best way they can....just like the rest of us. And that's what we love about them. There's a little bit of us in them. And there's a little bit of them in us.

Alice's amnesia, which the whole story hinges on, works well as a storytelling device. It never feels contrived or overworked.
And it allows all of us (characters and readers alike) to contemplate what our (former) selves, from ten years before, might think about the person we have become today.

Fascinating page-turning stuff.

According to the Hollywood goss at the end of last year, Jennifer Aniston has been signed to play Alice Love in the movie version of the book. Mr Books is thrilled!

Shelleyrae @Book'd Out has a more detailed summary review of What Alice Forgot here.
As does Alyce from @At Home With Books here.

Also my reviews for:

Big Little Lies
The Husband's Secret
The Last Anniversary

If you'd like to include your review of What Alice Forgot to this post, please pop your link into the comments below.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels

I read Fugitive Pieces around about the time it won the Orange Prize for Fiction (which is now the Women's Prize).

I fell in love with Anne Michaels ability to weave magic with her words. I remember being completely under her spell for the entire story. I felt bereft when it finished.

When I recently spotted that Michaels had written a children's book, I swooned with anticipation.

How could I not fall instantly in love?

Cats, delicious food, magic flying tablecloths and lots of gorgeous wordplays littered the pages of this illustrated chapter book. It all looked and sounded so promisingly delightful.

But something didn't zing for me.

Each chapter had lots of fun wordy digressions,
Some words are like a hailstorm during the middle of a picnic, or a flat tyre on a lovely journey, or a fallen tree across a path, and these words stop a story immediately and swivel it off in another direction entirely. Words like BUT, HOWEVER, IF ONLY, SADLY and UNFORTUNATELY.
Sadly, for me, these wordy digressions were more exciting than the actual story. The adventures were not the right size for me (see pg 11), they were even decidedly, ho-hum (see pg 18).

Which is such a pity.

The back cover has a lovely quote that says,
Five utterly captivating stories of gentle adventure, delicious edibles (with cheese for the cats), occasional peril and heart-zinging warmth.
Which helped me realise that what this book was missing was the emotion.
I felt no peril, no zing or glow of warmth. In the end I didn't care what happened to Miss Petitfour or her cats.

I really, really, really wanted to love this book, which is why I have spent so much time trying to work out what went wrong.

This is now my second attempt to get into the story.
I gave it up a few weeks ago thinking my life was too busy and hectic to appreciate it properly.

I have now had a lovely relaxing, soothing summer holiday. But this quaint, gentle tale still failed to capture my imagination or my heart.

Unfortunately, I need more drama than this story offers up. I need more character development. I need a reason to go along for the ride.

And Emma Block's sweet, charming illustrations have not been reason enough.