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

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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

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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

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November – Time and Again

So apparently, Pantomime season is crazy busy when you work in theatre production, who knew? This being my first chance to catch up with my old friend WordPress in two months, means that I may well bombard you all with two blog posts at once. That said, if nothing else it will take double the time to read, giving you the perfect opportunity to whack the kettle on and chill for 10 blissful (if somewhat filled with the ramblings of a bookish woman with far too much of an opinion on everything) minutes. HAPPY NEW YEAR by the way..

Time and Again – Jack Finney

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I have wanted to read this book for years. I cannot remember exactly how long, but I read a quote in the back of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 (A very ‘hard to put down’ book, if you can lift it at all in the first place), that suggested that this was the ultimate in time travel novels. Jack Finney writes beautifully, describing the New York of 1882 in such a way that you can easily lose yourself in the city sights and sounds. Some of the group thought the descriptions of past New York were laboured, but I did not find this at all, and for me, this was the beauty of the book.

Let’s come back to the more recent past, to be precise, to 1970. The book was written in 1970 and was set in the present day, so modern New York in the novel is, from our perspective almost half a century out of date. To look at it another way, the twin towers of the world trade center opened in 1970 and 1971 respectively, so they were just being built when the ‘present day’ part of the book is set. For the reader, who has travelled to New York recently, this gives us three New Yorks to consider, the one we know, the one that is developing into our modern New York, and a whole other place, where Central Park is home to many farmers, and few of the buildings we now know and love even exist.

Simon Morley, our main protagonist, is going about his daily business, happily in a new and blossoming relationship, when he is approached by Ruben Prien to take part in a secret government project. He agrees to take part and goes with Ruben to a huge warehouse where the project and its secrets unfold. I doubt I am spoiling anything by telling you that the secret project is time travel (if this revelation has shocked you to the very core I apologise, and respectfully suggest that you read the rest of the post again). So in an attempt to be part of something fabulous, and secret (and who doesn’t like to be part of something secret), and to curry favour with the new woman in his life, Si sets off on a time travel adventure.

The book is the story of a changing city, mixed gently with romance, mystery and intrigue. The writing is lovely, and the story kept my attention, but, it did not blow me away, in fact, it was a little disappointing. I LOVED 11/22/63 and when Stephen King said that he was inspired by Time and Again, I thought it would be mind-blowingly good. It was good, it rolled along, but there were issues, there were little things that irked and the premise wasn’t strong enough to overcome these in my opinion. I gave it 3* and this was also the average rating from the group.

Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin

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Giovanni’s Room is a short novel, but boy does it pack a punch. The story was written in 1956, a long long time before being gay or bisexual was in any way considered acceptable, let alone natural (yeh I know there are still many places where it’s not). The story centres around David, a young American man, who has moved to Paris to explore his sexuality.

David is Gay (or bisexual if you consider that he is engaged to and sexually active with a woman) but has locked those feelings away for years, his one time encounter with a male friend in his youth remains his dirty little secret. In Paris, David meets and falls for Giovanni, an Italian waiter in a gay bar (yes in Paris they existed). With his fiance away, David embarks on a relationship with Giovanni behind closed doors, and all the time fighting his sexuality.

The book is dark, the closet is a very dark place, and what becomes obvious throughout the book is that when you pretend to be something that you are not, people get hurt. Giovanni’s story is as heartbreaking as David’s, and I found myself being thankful that I live in a (mostly) more enlightened age, and in a progressive society. I surround myself with people who encourage freedom of expression, sexuality, speech etc, and find it unthinkable that anyone should hide who they are, and this book illustrates clearly why freedom and acceptance are so very important. I gave the book 4* and the rest of the group gave it an average of 3.5*.

Happy reading

Mel xx