July – The Psychology of Time Travel

Ooooh, it must be Sci-Fi month. This was not intentional at all, but it seems that we travelled into the realms of science fiction in July and for me, it was a refreshing change.

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

55509659_10157100708868544_7363482134889103360_o

A book about time travel and psychology, I’m in! Throw in a murder mystery and a romance out of time and I am hooked. Yes, this book grabbed my attention right away and held it until I finished the story two days later.  Was it perfect? no, but it was fun and it had so many twists and turns that I wanted to unravel that I really enjoyed reading it. The good: It’s a female-led novel with some really strong characters, a romance out of time and a murder that seems impossible. The main characters are well developed and for the most part very likeable and lovely relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter. The bad: There are too many characters and no time to develop some of them fully. The story is complicated and though I read the book quickly and it was hard to follow at times, if I had read it over a month or two I suspect I would be totally lost.

At the book club meeting, one of the girls suggested that it was too short and could easily have been much longer, maybe even a trilogy. This would have given the author scope to develop some of the other characters and maybe the plot could’ve been less rushed and therefore less complicated. It is a great holiday read but beware, our copy did not fare well in the sun, the glue became brittle and pages started to fall out, so if possible keep it in the shade. I really liked this book and would definitely recommend it, scoring it 4* and the other members of the group gave it 3.5*.

The Word for World is Forest – Ursula K Le Guin

61Fnc-j9m2L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

A fascinating wee book which takes the reader far into the future to a time when humans have destroyed the earth and are now taking over the planet Athshe. The humans have enslaved the placid native Athsheans and are destroying vast areas of the forest cutting down the trees to send wood back to Earth (Terra). The alarm bells started immediately for me; have they learnt nothing from destroying the Earth? Can you just colonise a new planet and make the natives work for you? How do they know that these Athsheans are non-aggressive? I mean it seemed like a recipe for disaster before I had even read the first 10 pages.

I will give nothing else away, but I will say that although it didn’t change my life, I really enjoyed reading this book. The way Le Guin writes is beautiful even when the subject matter is ugly and the joy of this book is that you can read it in a day, so if you are dragged into the story, as I was, you don’t have to put it down. I did find it a little predictable at times and would’ve liked more in the way of character development but I guess that’s difficult in a novella. I gave this book 3* and the only other member of the group who read it gave it 4*, so it’s a definite yes from us.

Happy Reading!

Mel x

Advertisements

May – Kill Your Friends

I’m not sure that any other two books can be more different than these. For the first time in the history of the book club, I didn’t finish either of the two books, I will try to explain why, but this blog will probably be a little short.

John Niven – Kill Your Friends

49896407_10156930776063544_603354458826473472_o

I can’t explain quite how disappointed I was with this, although I did not choose the book for the group, I truly wanted to love it. The story takes place in 1997 and is set in the music industry, this intrigued me as I worked for a record company in 1997. I went to Midem, which is the setting for chapter 1 and to the Brit Awards (in 1995) etc so I was really keen to read this book.
Yes, it is grim and unpleasant to read, but that was not the problem here, I have read some pretty dark and violent books, so I am fairly difficult to shock. Sadly, having read the first two chapters I could not be bothered to carry on. I get that the book is labelled satire, but it’s just not that clever in my opinion. I found it dull, repetitive and overall pretty badly written. The only way to describe this book is that it is utter tripe. It is the first time ever that I wanted to put a book in the recycle bin rather than pass it on to some other poor unsuspecting reader. I give this book 0* and others who read it, or like me gave up after a few chapters gave it the same. Steer clear if you value your time is our advice, there are many many great books out there that you could be reading instead.

Jane Austen – Persuasion 

41ZtVNzGvQL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

Persuasion was a relief after the rubbish that is ‘Kill your Friends’ if nothing else Jane Austen writes well. I went into this book convinced that I would love it, after all, I loved pride and prejudice on the TV, and that wasn’t just for Colin Firth, I really got caught up in the story and I love a period drama. I had never read Austen before and was expecting to fall in love with this book, but no, I did not fall in love, in fact, I didn’t enjoy it at all. I read the first three chapters and it was so utterly dull that I just couldn’t face reading even another page. I can’t fully explain why I was so bored by the story, maybe it was the absence of danger in the romance, as found in books by Du Maurier and Bronte. Maybe it was just that I didn’t really like any of the characters, nor did I care about their financial situations. I gave the book 1* because at least Austen showed some talent in her writing, however, two other members of the group read this and loved it, giving it 5* each so I guess it’s just not my thing *shrugs* C’est la vie!

Happy Reading!
Mel x

April – The One

We had three books this month because it’s a holiday month and holidays mean more time to read, so I took ‘The One’ with me to Greece.

The One – John Marrs

44298400_10156726133118544_2047754391422763008_o

The blurb for this book really drew me in. It was a great idea for a novel; what if there is one person that is truly meant for you and what if you could find that person with a simple DNA test? Well yes, I want to read this book, sign me up! The book follows five people in their journeys to find ‘The One’ using the DNA test. You’d be crazy to think that these stories go well for each of the five right? Also, that would make for a very boring book; they met, the loved each other, everything was perfect… No, I wouldn’t want to read that book at all, the problem is the book I did read wasn’t great either.

The best thing about this book is that it was several stories in one and that made it easy to read. The problem was that without exception the stories were disappointing. They were predictable, utterly cringy or completely unbelievable. I spent most of my time shouting ‘please don’t go down that route…’ at the author and then rolling my eyes thinking ‘yeh, he did’. It is just naff.

I gave this book 1.5* for having a good concept, but the others in the group gave it between 2.5* and 4* and it has been very highly rated on Goodreads. This time I think you might just have to read it and let me know if you agree with me or not, as it may well be your kind of book.

The Old Man and The Sea – Ernest Hemmingway

51HRN5S6AVL

Sometimes I pick up classic books and as soon as I start to read I can see why they are so highly rated, not so with ‘The old man and the sea’ in fact I just don’t understand why it is even considered a classic. I read this book on the train to London with my daughter, she asked me what it was about and I said “a man is trying to catch a fish” half an hour later I looked at her and said, “he is still trying to catch a fish”. This book goes nowhere and although Hemmingway clearly writes well I was utterly bored by the story.

I did not read it looking for a deeper meaning than the obvious ‘Man needs to prove himself by catching a fish in spite of adversity’ and I’m glad I did not as Hemmingway himself said “There isn’t any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.”

Honestly, I would not recommend this book at all to anyone. I gave the book 1* and that was because of the style of writing, not the substance, the others gave the book a maximum 2*. The best thing I can say is that it only takes a couple of hours to read, so it’s not a huge waste of time if you fancy a book about a man and a fish.

The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan

51rtRieCoEL

This was cute. Was it perfect? no, but it made me smile and it had some really sweet moments. Yes it is sentimental, and yes there are storylines that make you roll your eyes, but actually, it has a lot of heart and some great characters that are likeable. The relationship between Bomber and Eunice was lovely, and his despair over his sister’s writing was fun, but I think I fell for the book with the introduction of Sunshine, not only did she add to the story but she also humanised Laura and made her more than just a romantic heroine.

Yes, it is fluffy, it is at heart a romance novel, which is odd because I liked it and romance really isn’t my thing, but this book was easy to read and mostly happy. I may be overrating this book because it was much better than the others this month, but I would give it 3.5*. None of the other members of the group read this one, so maybe just trust me or you can check the reviews elsewhere before giving it a go, I don’t mind at all.

Happy Reading!
Mel x

January – Milkman

Well, I was definitely set for this month. I received three copies of Milkman as gifts for my Birthday and Christmas. This is definitely the book of the year, the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2018 has been praised to the heavens, so it seems like a great choice for the first book club of 2019.

Milkman – Anna Burns

41rl9jbuvhl

It is a long time since I have read a book that challenged my stamina this much. Four times, FOUR I seriously considered putting it down and never ever picking it up again, and I’m still not sure why I didn’t do just that. Anna Burns writes without the use of paragraphs, which makes the reading more difficult than it need be. The book is set in Northern Ireland during the troubles (the late 1970s) and is a stream of consciousness narrative, which reads as the repetitive ramblings of an 18-year-old girl who cannot gather her thoughts well enough to just tell her story. The narrator goes off on a tangent regularly and then comes back full circle many pages later, leaving you wondering ‘what was the point of all that then?’ I gave up trying to find the point halfway through the book when it became clear that most of the narrative was utterly irrelevant.

The characters are given no names, they are instead given short descriptions such as: ‘middle sister’, ‘maybe boyfriend’ and ‘third brother in law’, this in itself was not a problem, but coupled with the repetition, long rambling prose and the lack of paragraphs and punctuation made for an overcomplicated read. I don’t know why I continue to buy books that won literary prizes, as more often than not I am left wondering what criteria the books were judged on. With Milkman, it’s possible that it won the Man Booker Prize because of the unusual style of writing, which I did not enjoy at all, or it could be that it fits with the ‘me too’ movement that is very relevant this year.

Whatever the reason, I would never have given this book an award, it is ‘The Emporer’s new clothes’ in a book, and I for one am happy to stand up and shout ‘THERE’S NOTHING THERE!’ It’s one of those books you know it’s going to take weeks to finish if you can even be bothered to finish it at all. I gave the book 2* but I’m not sure it deserves that to be honest. The group rated it from 2* to 3.5*, read it if you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Human Acts – Han Kang

9781846275975

I like Han Kang, her stories are a little dark and her writing deep and philosophical, having read ‘The vegetarian’ and loved it, so I was looking forward to reading this. This book is not an easy read, in May 1980, a student uprising in Gwangju, in a far south region of South Korea, was brutally repressed by the military government. A young man, Dong-ho is part of the demonstration. He is there along with a friend. When the soldiers start shooting, people start running in every direction. He is separated from his friend but he can see a bullet going through his ribs, Dong- ho then finds a place to shelter before setting out to find his friend. Human Acts does not break the reader in gently, starting with the horror of many unidentified dead bodies and the people desperately searching through them to find their missing family and friends.

The novel manages to convey the utter horror of one of the most infamous incidents in South Korean history. The Gwangju Uprising was bloody and brutal, there are 800+ bodies buried now in the memorial cemetery in Gwangju, and until I read this book I knew absolutely nothing about any of this. Gwangju is Han Kang’s hometown and she tells the story of that uprising from the deeply personal perspective of victims and survivors and, most poignantly, the mother of a 15-year-old boy who was shot by soldiers during the chaos. The book is well written and incredibly hard-hitting and I would definitely recommend this heartbreaking story. I gave the book 4*, as did the rest of the group, it is definitely worth a try.

Happy Reading!

Mel 🙂

 

 

March – The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 years old

Turn the page book club meeting in March 2019, where comedy and Sci-Fi meet. Incidentally, this is a sub-genre I would very much like to explore in my writing one day. I’m sure Rob Grant and Doug Naylor are quaking in their space boots at this news! 😉

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old – Hendrik Groen

51Fr2j9XyVL

Hendrik Groen is in an old folks’ home in Amsterdam. He has decided to keep a diary “to give the world a little taste of the real Hendrik Groen.” He says he has always been a people-pleaser, always avoided confrontation, but now he’s going to shock everyone with “an uncensored exposé.” The diary is indeed warts and all and has some lovely little stories buried in amongst the daily ramblings of a fairly dull old man. I loved the ‘old but not dead club’ and could definitely see myself starting a similar club with my friends when I’m older, but generally, this book is badly written and tedious. In fact, the best thing about it was that I could count down to finishing it as each month passed.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen had four and five-star reviews and the blurb called it an international bestseller. Irresistible. Laugh out loud funny. I did not laugh out loud and chuckled only once whilst reading this book. Aside from the adventures of the OBNDC the book is overwhelmingly bleak, family only visit the residents of the home because it is expected of them. All of the old people stereotypes are covered in this book and it seems that the author expects us to find these funny. Hendrik’s best friend Evert is actually a bit of a dick, and Hendrik seems to have nothing but contempt for everyone apart from his small group of friends.

This book was recommended as being ideal for fans of  ‘A man called Ove’. It is not in the least bit comparable to that book which is wonderful, funny, sad and poignant. Hendrik is whingy which is annoying enough, but he writes a diary even when there is nothing worth writing about, and he leaves the parts of the story that might be interesting undeveloped (more about his wife and daughter). I finished it, I wish I hadn’t bothered but I did and I gave it 2.5* because of the OBNDC and because I enjoyed reading about his relationships with the two women in the group, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone I like. That said the other members of the book club gave it 3.5*- 4* so maybe just maybe you’d love it?

Sweet Dreams – Tricia Sullivan

9781473213005

“Charlie is a dreamhacker, able to enter your dreams and mould their direction”. This is how the blurb on the back of the book starts, sounds good right? Wrong! For such a great idea to be so badly executed is a massive shame. Forget all the typos and the glaring error in the blurb which says the story is set in 2022 (it’s actually 2027). As irritating as they were, I can cope with sloppy publishing if the writing is good but it just isn’t. The author has put so many ideas into one book and written none of them well, the result is that it is confusing and I just didn’t care enough to try and work it out.

The story revolves around Charlie, who has taken part in a medical trial which has left her with the ability to enter other people’s dream when she sleeps in the same room as them and has given her narcolepsy. She lives with ‘O’ who helps her to find clients who need help with their dreams. Early in the book, we get insight into a death that has happened and that somehow Charlie is involved with, this is in the form of a police transcript of an interview with Charlie.

Charlie’s client is a famous musician who is suffering from extreme nightmares that are beginning to affect her career. She is visited each night by The Creeper – a mysterious masked figure determined to cause harm. When the musician dies one night, Charlie finds herself under investigation for the death, but also the Creeper’s next target.  At this point, the book seemed like it could be pretty interesting, I wondered what had happened to the woman and wanted to keep reading. It did not take long for this to change and for me to wish it would end, the story makes very little sense and is not very well written at all, I would not recommend it and gave it 2* but others gave it 3*, so maybe you’ll like it?

Happy Reading!

Mel x

February – Black Swan Green

I’m not going to lie, in January I was pushed to finish the books, so this month I got an early start and had one read by the first of February. Now I just have to remember what I read, eek!

David Mitchell – Black Swan Green

61kj7zo3rel._sx324_bo1,204,203,200_

David Mitchell is an author that I associate with fantasy, I have read one of his before (Slade House) and I had high hopes for this book. In the early part of the book when Jason falls and injures his leg, he ends up in the home of a strange old lady. At this point, I thought there might be some magic/witchcraft involved, but that storyline quickly ended and was referred to again only near the end of the book. Rather than the mystical magical world that I had hoped for, Black Swan Green is simply the story of a teenage boy’s childhood in the 1980s. Jason struggles with a stammer and with bullies and finds being a teenager tough, but apart from that there is not much to report, nothing much happens, and it takes a long time for that nothing to happen over many many pages.

Mitchell’s constant references to 80s brands were incredibly tedious and only served to remind me that this was fiction and that the author had shoehorned in lots of products/bands to show how much knowledge he has of the era. People simply do not say ‘my sister was listening to Rio by Duran Duran, and eating a trio biscuit’ in real life. This, and the fact that the story really went nowhere most of the time stopped me from falling into the world of Black Swan Green. It wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, and I had already bought ‘Number 9 dream’ so I will read another of his books, but I was incredibly disappointed in this book and gave it 2.5* (it would have been 2* but I liked the bits with the Belgian lady). The average group rating was also 2.5*, so unless you want to read a coming of age story that meanders over nearly 400 pages, I’d give this one a miss.

Erri De Luca – The day before happiness

9780141984506

I had no expectations of this book, I saw it in Waterstones, read the blurb and added it to the book club list. This is a short novel by the Italian author Erri De Luca. A small book of over 100 pages which can be easily read in a day. The young narrator is orphaned but has been cared for by Don Gaetano, who is a mentor figure in the story. The story begins with the boy crawling into a cellar through a gap behind a statue and he discovers that this is a shelter in which Don Gaetano hid a jewish man from the Germans in 1943.

Early in the story, the boy is watching some older boys in the square playing ball, the young boy climbs a pipe to retrieve their lost ball in the hope that they will let him join their game. It is then that he sees a young girl at a window and he is captivated by her. Shortly afterwards, she moves away, only to return ten years later. The narrator looks back on his own life, and tells himself the profound stories Don Gaetano told him, about his own childhood, youth and manhood. I did not love the book, I found it slow and it did not hold my attention, however, it was well written and gave some insight into what happened in Naples during the war. I gave the book 2.5* but everyone else in the group gave it 3.5* so it is worth a try, you may love it!

Happy Reading!

Mel x

November – The Chaperone

Curling up on a cozy chair with a blanket, a latte and a good book is what winter is made for. November is where it begins…

Laura Moriarty – The Chaperone

13056159

At first glance, it is easy to assume that The Chaperone is a book about Louise Brooks from the perspective of the woman tasked with looking after her. Surprisingly, this is not the main story in the book, it is really the story of a woman (Cora Carlisle) who uses the role of chaperone for Louise Brooks to delve into her own past. Taking Louise to New York gives Cora the opportunity to explore a part of her childhood that she has long since left behind her. Cora also has a chance to explore the New York that was out of her reach as a young child, and in contrast to her life in the city.

The most interesting storyline in the book is Cora’s relationship with her husband. I am not going to go into depth as I don’t want to spoil the story, but it is incredibly interesting for the reader, as it is far from straightforward. Louise is painted as smart, sassy, sexy and just a little bit too full of attitude for a teenager in the 1920’s, but as you read on there is a sadness about her that is hard to ignore, and I found myself feeling sorry for her and for the lack of love and guidance from her parents. The task of chaperoning Louise is not an easy one, but Cora strikes a good balance between guardian and confidant, allowing Louise a little freedom, but reigning her in when needed.

I loved this book because I lost myself not only in New York in the 1920’s, but also in Cora’s life, both present and past. I was so totally lost in the story, that I read it over two days and it was just perfect for a cold Autumn weekend. The book explores the themes of racism, sexuality, relationships, ageing, poverty and neglect in a well-written thought-provoking story, that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a book to give them a great big hug. I gave the book 4.5*, the group rated it an average 3.5* so it was not for everyone, but it is one that I am very glad I chose it because it was just what I needed.

John Buchan – The Thirty-Nine Steps

51psFVDl0qL

Being a Hitchcock fan, I was really looking forward to reading this book. The story is set just prior to the outbreak of the great war, and Richard Hannay arrives home one evening to find a stranger on his doorstep, the man is in trouble and fears for his life, so Hannay takes him in. The following day he returns home to find the man dead and fearing for his own safety, he dupes a milkman, borrowing his outfit to escape unseen by the killers.

Hannay goes on the run to Scotland, presumably because Buchan is Scottish and therefore found writing Scotland easier than sending his hero off to Norfolk. The majority of the book is the story of Hannay on the run, evading the ‘bad guys’ and attempting to find out why the stranger in his home was killed. The adventure is good, although the hero is somehow able to slip in to and out of danger with the greatest of ease and at times and with incredible luck, that after a while just gets silly.

I enjoyed the book for several reasons, firstly it was short, therefore there were no rambling descriptions and the story kept my interest. Secondly it did have an element of danger and I’m a sucker for Hitchcock/Agatha Christie, lastly, it entertained me, I actually enjoyed the ridiculousness of Hannay’s James Bond-like luck, it made me smile. I gave the book 4* and the others gave it 2.5* – 3.5*

Happy Reading

Mel x

December – Hitman Anders and the meaning of it all

How on earth I found time to read two books in December, with pantomimes galore to run at College I have no idea, but I did find the time and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the Book club meeting was at the end of the last day of work before Christmas.

Hitman Anders and the meaning of it all – Jonas Jonasson

9780008152079

Having read and loved ‘The hundred-year-old man’ by Jonas Jonasson, I had high hopes for Hitman Anders. Sadly this book has none of the charms of ‘The 100-year-old man’, and actually very little charm at all. The three main characters are fairly well developed, though not at all likeable. Per Perrson is a young man who is dissatisfied with his lot in life and feels that he is owed more, he blames his family for his situation, and wallows in his misfortune. The disillusioned Priest, who has her head screwed firmly on, is the brains of the operation, always has a plan, whatever goes wrong, and takes control of the situation, dragging the others along with her. Hitman Anders is somewhat deluded (with his ‘ethical’ rules) this could have been funny, but it was kind of blah. This is an unlikely trio, and I kept hoping that perhaps as the book went on, they would show some development, as individuals and as a group, but it was not to be. In fact, there is a point in the book where the author adds the joke that they have come full circle and are right back where they were several chapters before, this was cute, but sadly only served to remind me that it was all a bit pointless.

The main problem for me with this book is that it is filled with danger, or the suggestion that danger is close, there is peril, there are guns and bombs and hitmen, and honestly, I should have been on the edge of my seat, but actually, I didn’t really give a shit. I didn’t care what happened to anyone in the book, I didn’t want to read on to see where the story would go, I just wasn’t engaged. Sure it was easy to read, and no it didn’t take much brain power and in that respect, I suppose it would make a reasonable holiday read, but it really wasn’t good enough for me to recommend it to a friend. I gave the book 2.5* and in hindsight, that was a little generous, the group were mostly in agreement with 2* – 2.5*, however, there was one who gave it 4.5*, so maybe you will love it? I doubt it, but I’ve been wrong before! 😉

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

9781447279990

Alice in Wonderland is a story that I love, a story that I know well, a book that I… have never read. What? How did that happen, how could it be that a book that has been present in my life for 40 years is a book that I have never picked up? Never mind, that’s not important, the fact is, I know that story inside out right? Wrong! What I know inside out is the wonderful Disney film, the one which assured me that I could ‘learn a lot of things from the flowers’ and that there are 364 unbirthdays and in which Tweedledum and Tweedledee are present, not so the book. It turns out that those things happen ‘Through the looking glass’ and the film is a mishmash of the two, I am shocked.

Reading Alice in Wonderland for the first time at 46 years old was fabulous, the story is adorable, it is fantasy at it’s best. Who doesn’t love the idea of a rabbit wearing a waistcoat and carrying a pocket watch and a very mischievous disappearing cat? The story is dark but it stays just the right side of surreal, this allows the reader to disassociate from the things that happen and rather than being concerned for Alice, we are intrigued and excited to find out what on earth will happen next. If you want to read a story that explores Wonderland in a much darker way then I can thoroughly recommend ‘Beware the claws that catch Alice’ by Christina Henry, it’s not a light read, but it is beautifully written and offers a unique twist on Carroll’s world.

Alice is so well known that there is little more for me to say, other than to recommend that you read it, whatever your age because it really is one book that you can lose yourself in without having to commit to weeks of reading it. I gave the book 4* and the others all gave it 4* – 4.5*, even if you don’t read children’s books, pick this one up sometime and give it a go, I bet you’ll fall into the rabbit hole too.

Happy Reading

Mel x

October -The Tattooist of Auschwitz​

Every so often there is a book that you don’t want to read, but feel that you should, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is one of those books. I was certain that it would be a difficult read but equally certain that it would make for a fantastic discussion at our October meeting.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

49585968-1-zoom

I read this book in a day, whether that was because I couldn’t put it down, or I felt I owed it to the characters not to, I am not sure. The tattooist of Auschwitz is the story of Lale, and the suffering and hardships that he endures in the camp, and of the strength of character and determination that get him through day after day of misery. Lale is incredibly charming and has an inner strength that is enviable, he uses both of these qualities to help others to survive and to make their daily existence just that little bit more bearable. The story is not just about one man’s survival in a dire situation though, it also explores the internal struggle involved with undertaking tasks that you have a moral objection to, in order to survive.

The love story between Lale and Gita develops throughout the book and adds a little hope to what would otherwise be a deeply depressing tale. The relationship is against the rules of the camp and puts both Lale and Gita in danger, and at times had me on the edge of my seat in fear for both of them. Lale was incredibly reckless and put Gita in danger a little too often for my liking, but I was pleased that they had each other in that awful situation. I was also interested to read about the mix of people that were brought to Auschwitz and loved the party of the story that focussed on Lale’s relationship with the Gypsy family in the camp.

This book is well written, it’s not perfect, but it tells Lale’s (true) story sensitively and in reading it I feel that I learnt a little more about Auschwitz. I am pleased that the story carries on after Lale left the camp, but disappointed at the end of the book which seems a little rushed. I will not spoil the end as it is a true story and fascinating, but you will see what I mean if you read it. I gave the book 4* and the group was unanimous in a 4-4.5* rating. It is definitely one to read if you want to gain a little more insight into the camps and those who survived the experience.

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

51GUOuP1TkL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_

The book starts with a house on fire, a family leaving town and a missing daughter. There is no way that the opening of this book could be considered slow, it slaps you in the face and screams ‘read me!’ and I’m fairly sure you’ll be glad you did. Is it wonderful? No, but it is an interesting read which explores many relationships and makes great book club fodder. It is essentially a book about mothers, their relationships with their children, and their relationships with other people’s children.

Shaker Heights, at first glance, seems to be a peaceful, well-ordered upper-middle-class community. Then Mia and her daughter Pearl turn up, and we start to see the reality of what goes on behind closed doors. Mia rents an apartment from the Richardsons and Pearl befriends the Richardson children and seems to enjoy being part of a ‘normal’ family unit for a while. As the cracks in both families start to show, and a court battle about the rights of a birth mother to stop her baby from being adopted by someone else ensue, there is plenty to keep the reader turning the page. Mia’s history is interesting, whether you agree with her decisions or not, it gives food for thought, and a couple of the characters are well developed, unfortunately, this is not the case for all of them.

Unlike The Dry, this book finishes too quickly and could do with a longer ending, as it seems a little rushed. I gave this book 3* and the group all gave it between 3* and 3.5*, it is a great summer holiday read, as it is an easy read, with more depth than most.

Happy Reading!
Mel xx

September – The Dry

September is a crazy month, back to work after the summer, kids back to school and the holidays are a distant memory. Luckily I had the book club to keep me sane.

The Dry – Jane Harper

51Cvr-E9I9L

This is supposed to be a ‘whodunit’ thriller of a book with a sympathetic lead character and a storyline that would keep you guessing and have you hooked right until the end of the book (according to online reviews). Set in the Australian outback, in the middle of a long drought, The Dry starts by setting the scene as bleak. The author does manage to convey the desperation of the life of farmers, trying to earn a living in a desolate, dying landscape. While setting the scene well, this only added to my desire to put the book down and go and read something a little less dour.

The main character, Aaron Falk, is a police federal investigator specialising in financial crime returns to his outback hometown of Kiewarra, to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Handler. Luke’s father has summoned Aaron to the funeral, and  although it is clear that Aaron does not want to be in Kiewarra and has secrets in his own past, he shows up. Luke’s father asks Aaron to investigate the death of this son and family, in spite of it seeming to be a cut and dried case, and Aaron reluctantly agrees to stick around and ask some questions. The author creates intrigue by having Aaron take a note from his pocket that reads “You lied, Luke lied, be at the funeral”

I wanted this book to be great, and for about 50 pages I thought it might pull me in, I had hoped that it would twist and turn in a way that would leave me feeling dizzy at the end, but actually I found it weak. The characters were dull, the story was longwinded and tedious and the plot lines were so obviously constructed to misdirect the reader that I was unsurprised by much of it. The worst thing about this book was the time I invested in it. It was a slow read, over descriptive, clunky and well for want of a better word ‘Dry’.

I gave the book 2.5* which, looking back I think is generous, but the start of the book was well written. I think the Author should have spent some more time editing, at 300 pages it might have been a pretty good read. The group gave it between 2* and 4* and a couple did enjoy reading it, so if you have a spare week to kill, give it a go, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – Phaedra Patrick

41+ldHipcCL

Urgh…   Sorry, that wasn’t very positive was it? It was a ok read, honestly, though, this was not even close to  being as interesting as any of the ‘old man’ books that I have read in the past decade. ‘A man called Ove’ was wonderful, with a fabulous (if grumpy) lead character, great writing and a lot of heart. ‘The hundred-year-old man who..’ was glorious, and took the reader on an epic journey. ‘Water for Elephants’ has a spirited lead character, who you cannot help but fall in love with, and ‘The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ was adorable, and brought me to tears. The curious charms of Arthur Pepper is like ‘Ove’ light. The title seems wrong (the charms were not Arthur’s), and the writing did not engage me, however it was easy to read.

The book is filled with unlikely occurrences, and though I am not opposed to a bit of fantasy, these storylines were fantastical beyond the realms of the story. One example of this is Arthur’s encounter with a ‘pet’ Tiger which would have taken a chunk out of his leg in the time he was alone with it. I found the fact that a telephone number written on a charm decades ago was active and connected him to the same family a bit too much of a stretch. I liked Arthur, and the fact that he decided to go on this adventure, I liked his meeting and spending time with a homeless man in London, and I think that more could be made of that relationship. The best thing about the book is the concept, the idea is a good one; man goes in search of his dead wife’s past. I am a little sad that this was not what it could have been, it could have made me laugh and cry, but instead it was so sugary sweet that it gave me a toothache.

I gave this book 3* and this was also the group score. If you want an easy read to pop in your suitcase, it will not disappoint. If however, you read the online reviews and expect some deep, meaningful, heartfelt story of devotion, please look elsewhere, because you won’t find it here.

Happy reading!

Mel xx