Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson

It is not that long ago that I reviewed another Dorothy Koomson title and I did not enjoy that much either. Oh dear! I only read this so quickly after the last one  'The Cupid Effect'  as I have promised it to a recently made contact on Bookmooch
When I discover for me a new author as I did when I read 'My Best Friends's' Girl in 2006, I often add their back catalogue of novels to my wish-list. This is what I did with Dorothy Koomson as I thoroughly enjoyed the first book of hers that I read. As you can see from my review
The next one I read 'The Cupid Effect'  was disappointing as you will see from my recent review here. I will still leave her other novels on my to be read mountain as there might be one as good 'My Best Friend's Girl!
One can but hope, meanwhile this title I was just not very impressed with and I was already two- thirds of the way through before it started to get mildly interesting.  This is only the third title by her that I have read and I still have two more on Mt TBR . As I have previously mentioned I like to loose myself in a book and with this one I was just unable to do so.  Due to me  personally not any fault of the book, which I am sure fans of chick- lit may well enjoy.
The heroine is Amber Salpone  and she has a passion for chocolate, don't we all but not to the extent that this young lady takes it I hope. She compares people to different kinds of chocolate and in shops  feels the need to sniff it! The other characters are, Jen whom she thinks is her best female friend, Matt, Jen's boyfriend and Greg who is Matt's best friend and Amber's platonic friend. At least he was for a good few years, then they become a couple but keep it secret from the other two, bizarre but amusing. Amber's past has left her with both commitment and trust issues leaving her unable to form new loving relationships therefore  avoiding trouble.
I think I can only suggest this is worth reading if you are already a fan of Dorothy Koomson.
Dorothy Koomson's Website

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Paper Lanterns by Christine Coleman


I have really been looking forward to this latest novel from Christine Coleman for some time now, especially as I knew that I was going to be visiting Hong Kong and Lamma Island myself earlier this year. I was at first a little disappointed that it was not in fact launched until after my return. I had been hoping to read this before travelling to Hong Kong as an insight into the places I was to be seeing shortly. One of the pleasures of reading for me is the new places and things I learn about on the printed page before me.   

However that was not to be the case this time and I now actually feel very lucky to have been able to read this after having been in Hong Kong so recently, the whole book came alive on the pages for me.  I can reassure you though that even if you have not been there Christine still writes in such a vibrant manner that vivid pictures will be painted in your mind. It is just that for me there was the extra gravitas of familiarity as I trod the same ground as the protagonist Ann myself, just in March of this year. It was sheer pleasure to retread and relive the sights, sounds and smells of Hong Kong through this author's descriptive writing.

This is one of the many scenes that is described perfectly in the novel
Bicycles on the pier at Lamma Island.

If you are interested in a more visual experience of the places you can read about in the novel please feel free to view my recent photos of both Hong Kong and Lamma Island.  Clicking on the blue link will take you there and volume four is where you will find photos of Lamma in particular. China March 2010

Christine seems to have a talent for taking normal people just like those you come across in everyday life and has managed to weave an engrossing tale around them, that in all feasibility could well have been a real life situation. In fact her inspiration for the novel came from a collection of old letters that came into her possession. Inspiration

A story that covers three different time periods starts with one of the main protagonists Ann planning a trip to Hong Kong to visit her estranged mother, Vivienne. Ann lacking in confidence and plain in comparison has always been in awe of her beautiful mother. Although there has been very little contact between them since Vivienne deserted her family when Ann was only sixteen and she has felt betrayed ever since by the mother she does not think fondly of.  In fact Ann always felt much closer to her beloved grandmother and was excited later in the novel when she was able to revisit some of the places that Granibelle who had also spent some time there in the thirties had done. 

As a side comment of personal relevance I also found these retracing steps interludes particularly poignant as my own father served part of his army national service in Hong Kong and had related many stories to me about his time there. It meant a lot to me being able to imagine him in certain spots all those years ago, just as Ann and George, the only male protagonist, were able to recreate Granibelle's outings in the novel.

It is while in Hong Kong that Ann discovers, from ephemera that she is given to read by her mother, that there are secrets in her family's past that force her to reappraise her own life. As the story unfolds it is the revelations that will keep you reading about the past pains that the women in this family put themselves through and are only now many years later getting the chance to put behind them and understand each other.

I highly recommend that you get hold of a copy of this novel to read if you can. Ok it is not deep and meaningful, but it is a sheer pleasure to read and relax with. I do not think many people would be able to find anything to dislike about it.

Christine Coleman's last novel was published in 2005 and I read it in 2007.

This was before I was trying to write proper reviews, but you can read what I had to say about it here.

Christine Coleman also has her own website where you will find a lot more interesting information about both her and her writing. I recommend you take a look.

Christine Coleman Website

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lovereading - Books of the Decade


Lovereading - Books of the Decade

Lovereading - Books of the Decade

Your chance to see and find out more about the Books of the Decade as voted for by you?  Well I voted and am pleased to be able to share the results here with you.

In January I invited you to vote for the best book of the decade at Lovereading - Home Page

Below is the link

Out of the top ten titles, I have read seven, two are on my TBR shelf and one is on my wishlist. The two unread ones have now been moved to the top of my to read list and the final missing title I must try and locate a copy soon.

Here is the list plus links back to the original site and my reviews for the titles that I have already read.

Lovereading Top Ten

Number One

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The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger

Voted the Book of the Decade by Lovereading readers. Shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Film of the Year Award 2010. A huge book in every way. The protagonists meet each other at different times throughout their lives and you do...

Released: 06/01/2005                 My Book Review

Number Two

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The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini

Voted 2nd in the Books of the Decade by Lovereading readers. Voted as the Penguin/Orange Reading Group Book of the Year 2006 and 2007. This book seemed to come out of nowhere. It was the first Afghan novel to be written in...

Released: 07/06/2004             My Book Review

Number Three

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The Book Thief
Markus Zusak

Voted 3rd in the Books of the Decade by Lovereading readers. Shortlisted for the Newcomer of the Year Award at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2008. This is the story of a street of ordinary German people living in the horrors of...

Released: 01/01/2008    On TBR shelf

Number Four

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
John Boyne

Voted 2009 Penguin Orange Readers' Group Book of the Year. Now a major film. Initially it is difficult to believe that the young son of the commandant of Auschwitz is as innocent as he is, then...

Released: 11/09/2008    The one title on the list that I have not yet got a copy of to read.

Number Five

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Girl with a Pearl Earring
Tracy Chevalier

Centring on Vermeer’s household in the 1660s in Delft, this speculative historical novel tells of his relationship with a servant girl, Griet, who became his assistant and the model for the painting of the title. Written in a simple style,...

Released: 03/07/2006   My Book Review

Number Six

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Joanne Harris

Into a small rural French village comes a mysterious woman, Vianne, her young daughter and the child’s invisible rabbit. They open a chocolate shop opposite the church. It is Lent and a strange war breaks out between the church and...

Released: 02/03/2000    My Book Review

Number Seven

The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold

Related from heaven after a brutal rape, Susie watches her family grieve and disintegrate, watches her friends and indeed watches her killer and the sad detective working on her case. Over the years we live and cry with them for...

Released: 06/06/2003 Read in 2004 before I started reviewing books read.

Number Eight

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Lionel Shriver

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Narrated by a mother, Eve, in letters to her estranged husband, this is a truly horrific story of a 15-year old boy’s killing spree but it is more the tale of how he got there than of the crime itself....

 Released: 09/05/2006   My Book Review

Number Nine

The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Barcelona, a city of secret police and secret love. In it a bookseller’s son finds a forgotten novel and stumbles upon a mystery as all copies of the author’s books are sought and destroyed by a sinister character...

Released: 02/04/2009     On TBR shelf

Number Ten

Small Island
Andrea Levy

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Shortlisted for the Best of the Orange Best 2010 by the Orange Prize Youth Panel. A novel about racism, prejudice and injustice in the post war years in London as Jamaicans, escaping economic hardship, move to the Mother Country. Told from...

Released: 03/09/2009     My Book Review 

I would love to know how many of these you have read and what you thought of them? Did they deserve to make the top ten in your opinion?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

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The 19th Wife is about history, faith and love related to the reader through two parallel narratives. In the historical part of the novel we read about people that existed in the real world, not just on the pages of a novel. It tells the story of one Ann Eliza Young who was the 19th wife of Brigham Young and her eventual expulsion from the Mormon church, when she rebelled about the practice of polygamy.  A novel based around real people and very real events, but it is a work of fiction not a biographical account.

The modern day narrative is a murder mystery set in a town in Utah, concerning a sect that still practices polygamy.

I found this  novel readable but it was somehow not the stimulating epic novel, at just over 600 pages that I was expecting. The account of Ann Eliza's family background of polygamy and her later crusade against it. This for me was the best part of the novel, a fascinating portrayal of a very peculiar lifestyle.

As her story unfolds so does the tale of modern day polygamy still practised by a breakaway group within the Mormons, called Firsts. Jordon Scott a young man who was thrown out of such a sect when he was just a boy, returns to the town of his childhood to try and solve the mystery of his father's death. I actually found this second narrative within the novel unconvincing and laborious reading.

The difference between the First Latter Day Saints and the leaders of the Mormon church in Salt Lake City is that the former strongly believed in the practise of taking many wives. Firsts are not Mormons, that I understand but they did come about because of the polygamous policies believed in by the early founders of the Mormon church.

I found myself more interested in trying to figure out where fact ended and fiction started. The background research I did about the Mormons was of a more lasting interest than the novel itself. Ann Eliza Young is a controversial figure to many not just those belonging to the Mormon church either. Maybe one day I will have the chance to read and learn more about her.

Sources of further info

There are a lot of characters in history mentioned  in this novel,Chauncey Webb and his daughter Ann Eliza Webb Young,

Joseph Smith (Church founder),_Jr.

Brigham Young's_wives

Information about the church founders can be found at Wikipedia.

More information about the author can be found at his website.

David Ebershoff Authors Acknowledgements

This is an interesting video narrated by David Ebershoff about his novel  'The 19th Wife' which is well worth viewing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka

What was I reading a year ago?

Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka

Hilarious and tragic at the same time, a difficult combination but once again Marina Lewycka has carried it off. Another farcical tale of Ukranians and other immigrants trying to find a better life for themselves in Englands green and pleasant land.
It starts in the Strawberry fields of Kent and a series of incidents lead our protagonists Andriy and Irina to Sheffield. It starts with a much larger group of immigrants but they gradually get left along the way until we are left with just the two. The original group being exploited by their employers and the criminal types that found them the work in the first place, decide to take the caravan they currently live in on the road to find their destinys. The motley group consists of Andriy, Ukrainian, son of a miner, Polish Tomasz, Vitaly, Yola, her niece Marta, all from EasternEurope, two Chinese girls, Irina who is fairly educated and is in England to improve her English, Emanuel from Malawi and of course the dog. The latter even narrates the story at times from a dogs point of view, strange but funny! It is on the road during various adventures whilst discovering the harsh realities of life that the group disperses all over England..Among the adventures are scenes in a poultry rearing unit, which makes disturbing reading if you are overly sensitive to such unpleaseant facts. Also making a brief appearance in a nursing home adventure is the old man Nikolai Mayevskyj from the authors first novel, a clever and amusing little touch. Fishing, restaurant work, and of course the initial strawberry picking scenes are also involved in this comical but poignant view of the illegal immigrant community in England.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How To Talk To A Widower by Jonathan Tropper


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Just two years after marriage at the age of  twenty-six to a woman ten years his senior Doug Parker finds himself a widower. The story picks up his life when already a widower for a year, he is still drowning in self pity. His somewhat eccentric  family are trying to encourage him to sort his life out and at the same time his teenage step son, Russ is taking out the anger of his mother’s death on Doug, with difficult behaviour.

I have no idea how this one ever got to be on my wish list! I think possibly as it was a Richard and Judy recommendation. It made it’s way on to Mt ToBeRead fairly  recently when a fellow Bookcrosser  kindly it sent to me. In the spirit of Bookcrossing to keep books travelling I always try and read such gifts fairly soon after their arrival.

The quote on the front cover states ‘Jonathan Tropper is a genius…he has yet again written a brilliant, funny and incredibly poignant book’
Well sorry but I must be missing something here. The word  genius seems rather a strong to use in this context, but then I don’t know any of this author’s other work so I will not pass further comment, just say I was very disappointed.
Funny, yes in parts mainly dark humour which I did not always find appropriate, especially with the I felt overuse of the f word and I assure you I am by no means a prude, if it is necessary use it.
I did laugh when the protagonist Doug describes his memory of his sister Claire putting on her best Julia Child voice. Until recently I had never even heard of Julia Child but now since having seen the film Julie and Julia,( this links to my review), I related to this and found it amusing. I think maybe then that a lot of the humour went over my head being American?
So was it poignant yes, how could it fail to be as a story of love and loss.

Definitely not a style of writing that I enjoyed! I am sure that this will appeal to lots of people as Jonathan Tropper is obviously considered to be a talented writer. In case you are interested in finding out more about him I have included a link to his website.

Once this post was written and saved I went and looked the title up on Amazon and there is only one other review there with less than three stars, the majority being four and five star reviews.  It seems I am therefore very much in the minority on this one.

If anyone else has read this I would love to know what you made of it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks

 Human Traces (Paperback) by Sebastian Faulks
When I  started reading 'Human Traces' for the first fifty pages I was unsure it was going to appeal to me. Once the introductions to the two protagonists had been made and the author went on to describe their first meeting it was starting to work for me.
The first protagonist we meet is Jacques Rebiere, a farmers son from Brittany with an interest in science and a  love for his mentally disturbed brother Olivier. Olivier is treated like an animal by the rest of his family, only Jacques seems to have any sympathy and an interest in the way his brothers brain works.  With the local Cure Abbe Henri encouraging Jacques in his education he studies medicine and it is while holidaying with the Cure after successful examination results that he first meets Thomas Midwinter.
Thomas a young man from Lincolnshire, England also studying medicine is staying in the same boarding house in Deauville, France, with his sister Sonia and her husband, as Jacques and Henri.  Despite initial language difficulties which the young men soon overcome, they find they share more than just medicine in common but both have a specific interest in psychiatry. A desire to learn more about how the human brain functions. As Thomas explains to Sonia he feels he has found a friend that although coming from a completely different background thinks in the same way as him. When they part at the end of the holiday they make a pact to remain friends and one day work together when they have finished their degrees.
What a complex and enjoyable novel this turned out to be. It took me so much longer than normal to read as I needed to really concentrate on the scientific information. It was no surprise to learn that Sebastian Faulks spent five years researching Victorian psychiatry before writing this novel.  There was just so much information to take onboard, some of which is quite disturbing but important as we follow the life story of these two young men as it unfolds after their chance meeting. The drama of their lives is blended seamlessly with the ongoing exploration of the human mind.
It was absolutely fascinating and I would recommend it highly to any fan of Sebastian Faulks, he is a master storyteller. However be warned this is not a quick or light read and some of the descriptive passages are not for the faint hearted.
A more comprehensive précis of the novel can be found here  on the author's website.
I had intended to read and review this title to tie in with Sebastian Faulks Birthday. He was born April 20th 1953. As I had not finished it by then, this was the post I compiled instead. Sebastian Faulks

SEBASTIAN FAULKS was born in 1953. After graduating from Cambridge he became a journalist, and was the first literary editor of the Independent. In 1995 he was Author of the Year at the British Book Awards and in 2003 Birdsong was voted number 13 in the BBC’s Big Read list of the nation’s favourite books. He lives with his wife and three children in London.

Sebastian Faulks Wikipedia Info.
Lovereading - Sebastian Faulks