Book Review of The Sunday Girl

sunday girlSorry to be a broken record – but this was another great, light, engaging holiday read.  I promise i have something a little more challenging on the go too.

The Sunday Girl is all about love gone dangerously wrong. We start with Taylor grieving the loss of her no-good boyfriend Angus – who ditched her to take an exotic holiday with his ex.  But Angus isn’t just a cad, gradually he is revealed to be abusive, both physically and emotionally.  As Taylor grapples with this, she decides to take action, spurred on by a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.  See, reading really does teach you stuff.

She puts a few things in place to punish Angus for his rampant infidelity- but soon he comes back begging her to forgive him.  She cannot resist.

But it soon becomes clear that Angus has begun a game of cat and mouse with deadly consequences.  It will be up to Taylor to fool him, placate him, and finally extricate herself.  But will she be able to do so before something truly terrible happens?  Just how much is one person capable of?

An easy read and one that keeps you coming back to it to figure out whats next.  Just what you want in an airport.

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Book Review of The Rosie Result

rosie resultGraeme Simsion delivers yet another lovable but simple chapter in the story of Don Tilman, our favourite un-diagnosed autistic character. The last book left us with Don grappling impending fatherhood. This book is set eleven years later, when his son Hudson is exhibiting some of the same behaviours as he does – he has difficulty making friends, understanding certain social cues and managing the world of school.

So Don decides he must do what his father attempted to do for him – to teach him those things that don’t come naturally. He doesn’t want the things that happened – and in some ways are still happening – to him, to happen to Hudson.

This turns their lives upside down as he quits his job in genetics and finally begins a bar.   Rosie is facing her own challenges balancing parenting Hudson, and offering him the support and understanding he needs.

But Hudson may have some difficulties – but also a lot of capabilities that become more and more obvious as the story progresses.

I enjoyed this as a “holiday read” (seem to be definitely in the mindspace for this) and more so that the ast installment. The addition of Hudson to the storyline allows for more exploration of Don’s backstory and makes the discussion of his possibly-autistic tendencies more rich and intricate. Rosie doesn’t have much to do in this story though – which is a bit of a shame. Very much a father-son act, but fans will certainly not be disappointed here.

Book Review of The Ruin

the ruinThe Ruin is an easy mystery and fairly perfect holiday reading.

We are introduced to Garda Cormac Reilly an Irish big-city cop who has transferred to Galway for love. Resented by the local cops, he is loaded up with cold cases and left to remain bored and obscure. But plenty is going on in this new town… including the resurfacing of a case he first encountered as a rookie, and two deaths that appear to be suicide that are not as they seem.  it all suggests corruption in the police department, someone determined to control the outcome of a handful of cases, including a cold case. Reilly isn’t sure who to trust in his new backyard, but he does trust his instincts. And something is very wrong.

I enjoyed the story but am always a little perplexed by mysteries in which the main character plays only a small role in the solution. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the wonderful revelations of Sherlock Holmes-type investigators, but a better read has all the pieces come together for the reader just after the characters put it together. Otherwise, how do we invest in the main character and the rest of the series?  I already have the second downloaded for travel reading, and it will be perfect for that, but nowhere near as good as the Cormoran Strike mysteries for example.

Book Review of Educated

EducatedTara Westover’s memoir ‘Educated’ is a powerful one, although a tad long.

Westover goes into incredible detail to outline the many stages of her life and education, a process which is remarkable to say the least.

Her story begins in a devout Mormon family of survivalists. They collect guns, can peaches and ration their bathing. The patriarch of the family brings new meaning to the word devout, suggesting that all is God’s will and mistrusting institutions such as the government, schools (all the children are technically home schooled, although this consists of looking at their collection of three books and working their parents trades) and especially the medical profession.  Each suffers terribly from this last one. Tara later comes to see her father as a man with a variety of mental illnesses. Her mother is a passionate herbalist and reluctant midwife who believes she has the special ability to detect disease in people. Her brothers vary – one escapes to college paving the way for Tara to do the same, while another falls into her father’s volatile madness and becomes threatening and abusive.

When Tara makes up her mind to defy her parents and try for college, although her natural ability is soon recognised, what she doesn’t know startles her. She has no idea how to study or write an essay. She has never heard of the Holocaust or even the most basic of modern American history.   Strangely, history becomes her passion and she receives a scholarship to Cambridge where she completes her PhD.

Throughout all of this though, she is torn. The modern ideas she encounters clash so vividly with things she holds dear, her family for example and her identity as a Mormon. And it appears her writing – even now – is her still trying to move through this. She emerges triumphantly from ignorance but it is not without cost. A worthy read. Frightening in parts. Felt a bit long and perhaps too much attention on early life.

Book Review of The Flat Share

flat shareThis is a sweet and simple story perfect for holiday reading and brains that need a break – I was easily able to engage with it on audio.

When Tiffy is dumped by her boyfriend Justin, she finds herself in desperate need for a cheap place to rent.  A flatshare with Leon seems like the perfect solution – he works all night and spends every weekend with his girlfriend.  But there’s just one problem – it’s a one-bedroom flat with one double bed.

It’s an unusual arrangement that her friends disapprove of – but the price is right and the idea is that Tiffy and Leon never meet.  But Tiffy finds as time goes on, she cannot live with an invisible man.  So she starts sending him notes.  What follows is a curiously cute courtship of two people who appear to have nothing in common, but are actually perfect for each other in ways they never imagined.  Don’t expect too much and this will be an enjoyable experience.

Book Review of Big Sky

big skyWhen I was offered the chance to review a Kate Atkinson novel, I leapt at it.  Life After Life was such a subtle and original book, and Transcription was also a really solid read.  I waited patiently for the chance for the book to arrive… only to find that Big Sky is the fourth in the Jackson Brodie detective series.  I had no idea Kate Atkinson had even penned mysteries!

A little disappointed, I spent the first 100 pages trying to orient myself.  In this space,  Atkinson introduced a huge number of characters, and I struggled to see the links between them. Some of them even appeared to know Jackson Brodie from other books, which made my heart sink.  I was convinced i was going to struggle reading this book – and I had so been looking forward to it!

But soon I become thoroughly engulfed in some bloody good storytelling.  Although I found Brodie himself to be an uninspiring character who contributes little to the narrative, the plight of the young women portrayed as victims of a highly organised ring of sex slavers who prey on young immigrants was compelling.

If you’re looking for a whodunnit though, you’ll need to look elsewhere.  This is more a series of investigations that appear to stand in isolation, but in fact are all connected. As you read on, this becomes more obvious.

If i hadn’t realised this was part of a series, i would have assumed the hero of the piece was Crystal – a surgically enhanced “trophy wife” who hires Brodie as she suspects she is bring followed.  It turns out Crystal is unknowingly married to one of the men most involved in this ring.  But it is her previous involvement in an earlier version of this scheme that preyed upon young runaway and orphan girls that has her in trouble now.  Here is a tough, shrewd woman whose survival depends on portraying herself  as a vacuous blonde bimbo, when in reality she is sharp, tough and loving to those with whom she has a genuine connection.  She is dismissive of Brodie who does little to solve her issue, which I think positions reader to be the same – she is, after all, such a compelling character.

I’d definitely consider picking up one of the earlier Jackson Brodie books now – not for Brodie himself, who is all but invisible here, but to see if the early storytelling is as good. Worth a look.

Book Review of The Binding

the bindingThe premise for Bridget Collins’ novel is an intriguing one – but the promise was greater than the final product.

It is set in a world slightly behind ours in some ways, one which is still technologically behind ours.  Emmett is a farmer who has been mysteriously ill – and is apprenticed out by his relieved family to a Binder.  Emmett believes that this is simply a maker of books, although notes that his family is very much against the reading of books, and so finds this apprenticeship an odd one.  Soon, Emmett learns two things… firstly that all books are essentially life stories that have been removed from the mind of the teller, and secondly, that it appears he has been bound, and had some of his memories removed.

Then we move back in time, which was confusing on audio to begin with.  In the past, Emmett meets a character with whom he has already come to dislike – and they fall in love. I tip my hat here to Collins for writing such a beautiful love story between two men… this really was the best part of the novel.

Later, Emmett burns his book and recovers his memories… but finds that his lover too has been bound and does not remember him.

There are good things here, but also some unevenness. The capacity to read for example is not necessarily congruous with the rural setting, nor did I find binding as a trade (i.e. people selling their life stories) particularly comfortable.  It’s odd for a writer to produce a book which diminishes the art of storytelling so much!  But some of this still works well and largely the narrative kept me engaged.