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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov


Awe and exhileration - along with heartbreak and mordant wit - abound in Lolita The authors most famos novel, a story of obsession and passion.

I have wanted to read this book for a very long time but always kept putting it off as I thought the subject matter would be too disturbing and I would need to be "in the right mood" to read it.

That time finally came and I eagerly picked it up and read it. I must admit to being disappointed. I can't really blame the author though as it was not the book itself that disappointed me but rather how the story just didn't meet my expectations. I think I expected it to be more visual and dramatic but it was told in a rather matter of fact way from Humbert Humbert's point of view. I also expected there to be more consequences on Lolita of the abuse that happened to her but it seemed to have very little effect on her in the long run.

I did find it rather interesting the way the author wrote it in such a way that you felt yourself having sympathy for Humbert and despised Lolita at times. This shows how good the writing is and how well the characters are developed and laid out. I had to keep reminding myself not to get sucked into Humbert's lies. In some ways, this showed me just how a young girl could get sucked into this sort of abuse without realising that it is actually very wrong. A disturbing read especially if you have a young daughter.

Beautiful ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot-searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion-along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

I thought that this was quite an enjoyable read but could have been a lot better had the author just taken it in a slightly different direction and cut out a number of the side stories that, I felt, were unnecessary.

There were too many characters from the very start, a number of which did not add anything to the overall book.

The main story of Pasquale was interesting and I wish that the author had concentrated more on that than some of the side stories.

While I liked the complication of the Richard Burton, love child, story and the characters in that, I felt that this part was not well written. For Example, I felt the author laboured the point of it being Richard Burton by continually referring to him by his full name, Richard Burton. It would have been better if the author had introduced him as Richard Burton and from then on just called him Richard, like with all the other characters. It became rather annoying to me as I got the point that this was a big film star and I knew his name so did not need to be so constantly reminded in full.

There were other parts that I just did not bond with in the story. However, on finding out that the author, Jess, was a man and not a woman, as I first thought, some of my issues made more sense to me. The parts that I felt were not believable or that did not sit right with me were coming from a man's point of view. When I reviewed them while trying to see them from a man's point of view, they started to make a bit more sense.

Not a complete waste of time and it flowed quite quickly in reading but not one to actively seek out. 3.5 out of 5 from me

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses

Lily Casey Smith, this novel's feisty Texas protagonist, is a frontier teacher, a rancher, a rodeo rider, a poker player, and bootlegger. In Half Broke Horses, she survives droughts, tornados, floods, poverty, and whatever else fate can throw against her. Based on author Jeannette Walls's grandmother, Lily is a plausible character because she has a voice that synchronizes with her history. 

After reading, and enjoying, The Glass Castle by this author, I was excited to read this book. About the life of her spirited Grandmother.

It started off as an enjoyable story of a woman who was clearly leading an unusual and interesting life. It was well written in terms of the flow and structure of the story. Where it failed, for me, was that it just never really went anywhere. It just kept telling us what happened next in the life of Lily but after about three of these stories you got how spirited she was, how hard she was and how she would do anything to keep her family going and survive in the world. It started to get a bit tiresome and I kept saying to myself, I get it, she was a plucky woman but I just wanted the story to have more of a purpose.

If it had been written as a pure biography then, I suppose, this would have been acceptable, but it was a fiction novel and, somehow, I just expect a bit more from them.

An ok read if you already have it lying around but not one I would seek out.  3 out of 5 from me.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Time of Tides by Mark Woods

Time of Tides

What if Global Warming wasn't just down to Climate Change? What if it was down to something else? 

As the worst storm of all time hits the entire globe and as all across the world rivers burst their banks and the oceans start to rise, one family take to the Norfolk Broads to try and escape the floods. Little do they know their nightmare is just beginning...because as they are about to find out, nowhere is safe!

My first time reading an ebook and the first release by this interesting new author.

A success on both counts.

If this is the first novel released by this author then he has a long and prosperous career ahead of him, or at least he should have.

I found the story very believable in a horror other worldly sort of way and I found it very easy to read as it flowed nicely. There was no waste of words with unnecessary scene setting or fluffy descriptions. He just got on with the story which was based on a great idea. I actually wanted the book to be slightly longer as I wanted to know more about what happened next (perhaps there is a sequel planned!) and he could have taken more time in the middle to explain the whole story of the Lloiger and what they were doing to the planet. I thought the explanation by the scientist a bit rushed for me. I found that I just wanted to keep reading to see what was going to happen next, which, to me, is one of the signs of a good book.

Why did I deduct one point? Well it is really a half point deduction but that is not allowed. I may be picky here but I felt the characters sounded American in the first few pages and then they settled down to being British. There was also some words repeated within a few sentences of each other which I felt should not have happened. One example, "back from out of her reverie" and then on the same page referring to the same character "woke her from her reverie". Oh, I know I am being picky but just trying to help a first time writer become a great established one.

Well done Mr Woods and I look forward to your next release.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Johnny got his gun by Dalton Trumbo


This was no ordinary war. This was a war to make the world safe for democracy. And if democracy was made safe, then nothing else mattered--not the millions of dead bodies, nor the thousands of ruined lives...This is no ordinary novel. This is a novel that never takes the easy way out: it is shocking, violent, terrifying, horrible, uncompromising, brutal, remorseless and gruesome...but so is war.

I picked up this book after reading about it in the novel Names on a map by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

I am almost lost for words on this book and am struggling to put down my thoughts. A very powerful read and one I would say everyone should go out and read it, especially the Leaders of the World and anyone deciding to go to war.

Just imagine you "survived" but had no legs, arms, mouth, nose, eyes, face or hearing but your brain was perfectly in tact and working overtime. Unimaginable, but somehow in this book, the author got me to get inside this character.

Just read it and weep, as the saying goes.

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan


Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

A slight twist on the usual Titanic type what happens when the boat sinks type movie. This was about what happens to the people in the lifeboat after the boat is sunk and gone. It covered many moral dilemmas that surfaced in the long period that the survivors had to spend on the lifeboat before they were saved. I also liked the twist of the legal case after they were saved which shows that no matter where you are or what circumstances you find yourself in, you have to still obey the law or face the consequences.

I was torn between giving this book a 3 or 4 out of 5 as it was an entertaining read. I eventually settled on a 3 because I just felt it could have been down a lot better. There were some unnecessary parts to the story and slightly to many characters to keep a track of. Some parts were also slightly unbelievable but, then again, I have not been stranded on a lifeboat for an extended period of time so who knows if that is just because of my lack of that experience. The character development of a few main characters could have been better as I did not really feel anything for any one of the characters. I have just read a couple of novels that have had outstanding character development so, perhaps, my standards are now higher.

A good enough read and should make an ok book group discussion.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dawn by Elie Wiesel

Dawn (The Night Trilogy, #2)

Elisha is a young Jewish man, a Holocaust survivor, and an Israeli freedom fighter in British-controlled Palestine; John Dawson is the captured English officer he will murder at dawn in retribution for the British execution of a fellow freedom fighter. The night-long wait for morning and death provides Dawn, Elie Wiesel's ever more timely novel, with its harrowingly taut, hour-by-hour narrative. Caught between the manifold horrors of the past and the troubling dilemmas of the present, Elisha wrestles with guilt, ghosts, and ultimately God as he waits for the appointed hour and his act of assassination. Dawn is an eloquent meditation on the compromises, justifications, and sacrifices that human beings make when they murder other human beings.

I felt a bit misled by Goodreads when I picked this book up to read. It is listed as #2 in The Night Trilogy and after reading Night I just had to read the so called second book in the trilogy. It is not a direct second book of a trilogy. I am not even sure if it is Fiction or Non-Fiction (like Night).

That aside, it is another example from this author where less is more. 102 pages that again you read through hardly taking a breath.

The story itself does really make you think about the futility of war and quite angry with the resistance behind trying to set up a new Israel. A lot of killing went on in the name of their beliefs and while, one should stand up for ones beliefs, it seems rather a double standard. On the one hand criticising others for killing in the name of their beliefs while doing so yourself! A very deep matter of debate that I won't get into in this review.

Beautifully and simply written.