Monday, February 27, 2012

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult


                          Vanishing Acts


  • Paperback: 417 pages
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Publisher: Hodder 2006
  • Source: Unknown on my bookshelves since 2006.
  • First Sentence : ‘I was six years old the first time I disappeared.’
  • Review Quote : ‘Gripping read …never slips into straightforwardly familiar territory and successfully avoids being overly sentimental’ Guardian
  • My Opinion: I was not impressed.


    As I have more titles by Jodi Picoult on my TBR shelves than by any other author I decided it was time I read another one of her books as I have not done so for a couple of years! I really used to enjoy her novels until I got bored with them all being so similar in format. I Thought it would be interesting to see how I felt after a break. I was not impressed! Maybe my tastes have changed as I really did not enjoy this one. It is strange as did I know somehow that this was going to be the case.  I only discovered the work of this prolific author in 2006 although she has been a published author since the early nineties.  I last reviewed a book of hers here back in August 2009, at which time it appears I was very keen on her writing having read eight up to that date. Why then has it taken me over two years to pick up another one, especially when even after reading this one I still have another six on our bookshelves waiting to be read. They will be read eventually as I am still hoping that this was a one off disappointment.

    What would you do if you found the life you had lived for years was all a lie? This is exactly what happened to Delia Hopkins who has led an almost idyllic childhood with her widowed father. It would have been perfect had her mother not died in a car accident when she was very young. She is now on the verge of marriage with a daughter of her own and a search and rescue job that she loves. Sad that her mother will not be at her wedding she is disturbed by flashbacks from her past that she simple cannot recall. The nature and power of memory are strong and that is the central theme of this powerful story. What happens when the past we did not even know we were running from catches up with us and the memories come back to haunt you.

    This should have been so much better than I found it to be as it had all the potential of being a gripping and sentimental story, which it was in parts. Just the parts that I did not like were a big let down for me. The truth hurts I know but I just found the scenes set inside the American prison system far too disturbing in my current frame of mind. Unfortunately these horrendous scenes spoilt the novel for me but do not let my weakness put you off. If you read this or have already done so I will be interested to know if you think I was over reacting; by letting just part of the story spoil the whole.

    Jodi Picoult

    Jodi Picoult Author profile

     Jodie was born on May 19, 1966 in Nesconset, Long Island, New York,, The United States She studied writing at Princeton University, graduating in 1987, and had two short stories published by Seventeen magazine while still in college. Immediately after graduation, she took on a series of miscellaneous jobs, from editing at a textbook publishing company to teaching eighth grade English classes. Soon after, she attended Harvard University to earn her master's degree in education.
    Her novels tend to centre on human emotion and complex human relationships. Most of her books' storylines incorporate a criminal or civil case which lasts throughout the book's narrative, concluding shortly before the book ends. In books that don't follow this pattern, an attorney character is still often included. At the end of nearly all of her books, there is an unexpected twist.

    Vanishing Acts - Jodi Picoult Book Trailer – No Spoiler.

    Uploaded by italiandiesel on Apr 5, 2010

    The biographical information photo and the video used in this post are with thanks to the following websites.

    Book Twelve - Vanishing Acts - Excerpt etc.

    Goodreads - Author Profile

    Jodi Picoult - Official Website

    You Tube - Vanishing Acts

  • Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler


    The Amateur Marriage

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Publisher: Vintage Random House Group 2004
  • Source: On our bookshelves since 2006.
  • First Sentence : ‘Anyone in the neighbourhood could tell you how Michael and Pauline first met.’
  • A Favourite Quote: ‘He had the feeling that if he held his breath , the two of them could stay suspended forever in this moment of stopped time.
  • Review Quote : ‘Tyler is an exquisite chronicler of the everyday. Her fiction is a quiet, gentle reminder of the goodness to be found in most ordinary lives. In a noisy, violent world, this is surely not to be sniffed at – and neither is her fine writing’ Observer.
  • My Opinion:  An everyday family's experience elevated to a good read.

    The story of the marriage of Michael and Pauline, a mismatched couple if their ever was one.  The main dramatic event in their marriage is the disappearance of their eldest daughter in the sixties, but that is jumping ahead rather.  Michael Anton is of Polish descent and works in the family grocery business, his world changes when Pauline Barclay walks into the store in December 1941. To Michael she is from an exotic world and he finds himself irrevocably drawn to her even making the patriotic or was it romantic gesture of joining the armed forces because of her influence on him. Their marriage becomes somehow inevitable.when before his training is even completed he gets wounded so badly that he is invalided out.

    Pauline believed that marriage was an interweaving of souls, while Michael viewed it as two people traveling side by side but separately. Two such different opinions of course lead to resentments but somehow they stay together. The birth of three children, a move to the suburbs, all normal life events for many but then their daughter disappears, a catalyst for the cracks to deepen.

    Each chapter of the book leaps ahead in time to different stages of their marriage with changes having taken place that you have not actually read about, but somehow this does not spoil the narrative. In fact for me it helped make it more readable, otherwise it may have been a rather long winded marriage tale!

    Anne Tyler’s characters despite their idiosyncrasies seem very feasible and familiar to me. I have not read that many of her books but I found the previous ones interesting for the same reasons. Back When We Were Grownups and Digging to America.

    If you are a fan of Anne Tyler you have probably also already read this one, I am somewhat behind. If you are new to her work, I think it is a good  introduction to her writing.


    Author Profile

    Anne Tyler

    Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University

    Author photo and biographical information courtesy of authors Goodreads Profile.


    I have chosen to read this title as the letter A for this challenge which I have decided to attempt, for now anyway, to achieve in alphabetical order. I have a good selection of titles to choose from on our bookshelves so will see how it goes. You can follow my progress here.

  • Sunday, February 12, 2012

    blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris




  • Paperback: 527 pages.
  • Genre: Psychological Thriller.
  • Publisher: Blackswan
  • Source: Given to us by a friend in the UK.
  • First Sentences : ‘ Once there was a widow with three sons and their names were Black, Brown and Blue. Black was the eldest, moody and aggressive. Brown was the middle child, timid and dull. But Blue was his mother’s favourite. And he was a murderer.
  • Review Quote: ‘An ingenious and gripping read, it terrified the living daylights out of me’ Daily Express.
  • My Opinion : Very clever and well written but I simply did not enjoy this one.


    I have been reading and generally enjoying, sometimes loving the writing of Joanne Harris for a long time. This time with blue eyed boy after reading all 527 pages I am left wondering why I  bothered. It was not the writing as that was up to her normal high standards. No this time I just could not get my head around this somewhat strange story.  The fascinating aspect of the story and possibly the reason I kept reading was that Synaesthesia plays an important role in the story. Also interesting is that it is written in the form of an online journal.  If you have read Gentleman and Players you will recognise the setting for this novel as it is also set in the Yorkshire town of Malbry.

    Once upon a time there were three brothers, Black Brown and Blue as they were known by their widowed mother. Blueeyedboy is single, early forties and living at home with his mother. He has a mundane job and no social life apart from his virtual one. He spends a vast amount of time online, on a website he set up it seems to play out his fantasies.       Most of his online interaction is with Albertine, with whom in the real world he shares a troubled past. The scenarios he talks about in his web journal are of dark murder. Our protagonist plays out his life on the internet so we slowly learn of his dysfunctional family background and his connections to Emily the blind child prodigy who was also part of his childhood. His mind games will lead you to a conclusion that will not answer all your questions but leave you with something to think about. This I believe was the author’s intention.

    It seems I am not alone in my thoughts, as opinion on this novel seems to be very much divided and I quote Joanne Harris : ‘Never has one of my books received such a “Marmite” reaction. Love it or hate it? What kind of reader are you?’   I am not I do not think of a sensitive disposition and I was not terrified as the back cover suggested I might be, I just simply did not enjoy it! Disappointing as after enjoying Gentleman and Players her first psychological thriller, I expected more from this one. Joanne Harris’s writing has in the past tended towards the dark side of human nature but this time I found it just too heavily weighted. Love, Like or Hate this novel will certainly give food for thought especially about the darker side of how one can portray oneself on the internet.

    If you have read this I would be very interested to know what your Marmite reaction was.


    Image of Joanne HarrisAmazon author photo.

    About Joanne Harris (courtesy of her official website)

    Joanne Harris was born in Barnsley in 1964, of a French mother and an English father. She studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and was a teacher for fifteen years, during which time she published three novels; The Evil Seed (1989), Sleep, Pale Sister (1993) and Chocolat (1999), which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.

    Since then, she has written eight more novels; Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Gentlemen and Players, The Lollipop Shoes and Runemarks, and most recently blueeyedboy which was published in March 2010, plus; Jigs & Reels, a collection of short stories and, with cookery writer Fran Warde, two cookbooks; The French Kitchen and The French Market. Her books are now published in over 40 countries and have won a number of British and international awards. In 2004, Joanne was one of the judges of the Whitbread prize (categories; first novel and overall winner); and in 2005 she was a judge of the Orange prize.

    Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as: “mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion of the system”, although she also enjoys obfuscation, sleaze, rebellion, witchcraft, armed robbery, tea and biscuits. She is not above bribery and would not necessarily refuse an offer involving exotic travel, champagne or yellow diamonds from Graff. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16, is currently studying Old Norse and lives with her husband Kevin and her daughter Anouchka, about 15 miles from the place she was born.

    For more fascinating facts visit 101 Facts About Joanne Harris.


    Videos do not contain any spoilers.

    Uploaded by transworldvideos on Mar 9, 2010


    Uploaded by transworldvideos on Apr 18, 2011

    Information, photo and video used in this post is with thanks to the following websites.

    YouTube - Joanne Harris – blueeyedboy

    The Joanne Harris Website

    Amazon Profile