Review : Possession

May 24, 2010

Title: Possession
Author: A.S. Byatt
Rating: 8/10
Good For: When you think romance is dead

Hello! Just me, long time no speak! I must apologise for my lack of posts here but I’m afraid I’ve been nose-deep in boring books about photoshop and other such dreary matters of late.

Happily though, due to the recent sunshine and my sitting out in parks lots, I’ve managed to read a brilliant book, Possession by A.S. Byatt.   I really loved it, and it seems like I’m not the only one because it won the Booker back in 1990.  The novel flits primarily between two narratives – one which centres on the forbidden love between two Victorian poets and another about a modern day academic who unearths correspondence between the two poets and who must unravel the mystery of their scandalous affair before his academic rivals find out about his discovery.  It’s got a bit of everything:  literary mystery, sumptuous romance, scandal and fascinating character development.

I hear there was a film adaptation starring Gwyneth Paltrow. I will not be watching it for fear of disappointment!

Kat x

Title:            Alphabet Weekends

Author:            Elizabeth Noble

Rating:              7/10

Good For:            Light entertainment

This book had been sitting on my bookshelf for a good couple of years, and somehow my eye alighted on it while scanning for my next read, and its time had come!

The strapline across the cover of this book reads ‘Love Lessons from A to Z’, and that short phrase encapsulates it rather well.

There’s an interesting and varied selection of characters, and I really liked the juxtaposition of several different relationships at their different stages.  Although it’s essentially chick-lit, there’s some quite nitty gritty stuff in there, too, and it’s not all as happy ever after as it may lead you to believe.

A good, light read.

Caroline x

Title:     Tell Me Something

Author: Adele Parks

Rating: 8/10

Good For: Holiday Reading

We’ve been bad bloggers of late, but we do have excuses: Kat’s only been reading books about photography, Apow is currently otherwise engaged, and me – well, I just haven’t been reading as much as I would like to.

Anyway, I do love Adele Parks (even more so since the lady herself left a comment on my blog last year when I mentioned that I enjoy her books), and was pleased to find this one, which I hadn’t previously read.

The story centres around Elizabeth, a die-hard romantic, who has always dreamed of having an Italian husband and lots of babies.  She achieves the first dream, but is having difficulty achieving the second.  The majority of the story takes place in Italy, where she and Roberto, her husband, have moved to, to run his family business. 

Elizabeth soon finds there’s more to living in Italy than eating ice cream in sun drenched piazzas, and along with a scheming mother-in-law from hell, Roberto’s significant ex seems to be hellbent on destroying her marriage.  Add into the mix a gorgeous American man who befriends Elizabeth, and …. well, I won’t spoil the story for you.

It’s chick-lit, no doubt – but I like Adele Parks’ writing, and she does chick-lit very well indeed.  Would be a brilliant beach read for the summer.

Title:            Faithless

Author: Karin Slaughter

Rating:  6/10

Great for: scaring you (but not as much as it should)

This is the fifth book in Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series, and having read them all in order over the last year or so, it’s my least favourite.

It follows the same formula as the previous books, but I found that the descriptions of the rather horrific crime (girl buried alive in woods) almost didn’t seem to take the terror of this situation seriously enough.  I just didn’t ‘feel’ it.

And I guessed ‘whodunnit’ pretty early on, which didn’t help, either.

 I still enjoyed it: picking up one of this series is like visiting old friends – it’s nice to see what’s happening to the characters you’ve come to know over the previous books, and catch up with where they are now.

In summary, good – but not her best.

Review : Le Bal

March 31, 2010

Title: Le Bal
Author : Irene Nemirovsky
Rating : 7/10
Great for : a rainy afternoon

I enjoyed Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise, so when I saw this slim volume peeking out at me from within my library shelves, I swooped it up immediately.   Lo and behold, however, it’s another collection of short stories!  I say “collection”, there’s two – the entire book is only 100 or so pages.

The first  is a sharply written story of a girl who has been continually neglected by a vain, social-climbing mother.  When her mother decides to throw a lavish ball to show off the family wealth and growing social status, the girl manages to exact her revenge in a very satisfactory way.  Great little read, I enjoyed it very much.  The second story is more tragic, following the misfortunes of a devoted nanny following her “family” as they abandon their wealthy lives Revolutionary Moscow and flee to Paris where they live in hardship and poverty.  A very different story to the first, but equally as enjoyable.

If you see this, do give it a try. It only took me a few hours to read.


Review: Restless

March 30, 2010

Title: Restless

Author: William Boyd

ISBN: 9780747586203

Rating: 10/10

Great For: WW2 story lovers

I would never have picked up this book had it not been for the fact that it’s this month’s choice for my book club. The reason I wouldn’t have picked it up is because it has ‘winner of’ some prize or other written on the cover, which normally turns me right off – I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a prize winning book before!

Anyway, the story starts in Paris in 1939, where Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian emigree, is recruited for the British Secret Service.  Under the tutelage of a mysterious Englishman, Eva becomes the perfect spy, learning to mask her emotions and trust no one, including those she loves most. 

Since the war, she’s rebuilt her life and become a typical English wife and mother – but once a spy, always a spy.

Like Kat, I’m a fan of anything set in WW2, and this book had me absolutely hooked from beginning to end.  I literally couldn’t put it down.  And when I finished it late last night, I felt like I’d lost a friend.  Now, THAT’s a sign of a good book.

Caroline x

March 29, 2010

Title: Missing You
Author : Louise Douglas
Rating : 9/10
Great for : that ‘feel good’ feeling

Fen works in a bookshop and is devoted to her young son, Connor, but she keeps herself to herself.  Haunted by guilt and a terrible secret, Fen lives a compromised life, isolated from her family, far from home and too afraid of the past to risk becoming close to anyone. She is constantly looking over her shoulder, knowing that one day the truth will catch up with her.

Sean, on the other hand, is enjoying a seemingly perfect life. He has a successful career, lives in his dream home and adores his beautiful wife, Belle, and their six-year-old daughter, Amy. That is until the day Belle announces she has found someone else and wants Sean to move out.

Circumstance throws Fen and Sean together. Slowly their quiet friendship turns into something much deeper and the joy they find in one another eventually gives them the confidence to trust and love again. But will the past tear them apart just as they find happiness?

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book, the second from Louise Douglas and it didn’t disappoint.  The writing was just gorgeous, the story was beautiful and it wasn’t a typical happy ending book.

Loved it.  Loved it.  Loved it

Title: The Power of Less
Author : Leo Babuata
Rating : 4/10
Great for : telling you what you probably already knew

I picked this up after MovetoPortugal had read it.  It’s a fairly easy to read book as these types of books go, but I found it slightly simplistic.

It’s much better applied into a work environment, but even then I found the principles difficult to imagine successfully implementing.  The principles make sense, but it’s what you already knew anyway. Don’t check your emails constantly, limit your internet time, focus on a small number of projects only.

The one principle that did stick with me was to concentrate on one thing at a time, one big project.  That way you are far more likely to be successful than if you have more than one on the go.

The book wasn’t all bad and maybe I’ve read too many books of a similar thread to not really learn anything from this.


Queen of the Big Time

March 25, 2010

Title: Queen of the Big Time

Author: Adriana Trigiani

ISBN: 0743462270

Good For: Escaping to the Past

Rating: 8/10

Set in a small immigrant Italian community in rural Pennsylvania, this book starts in 1921 and follows the story of Nella Castelluca, a girl who dreams of achieving more than her humble roots will allow – an education and a good job.  She lives on her family’s farm on hte outskirts of Roseto – a town of old world tradition.

When Nella meets the handsome, worldly and irresistible Renato Lanzara, she believes she has found the soulmate with whom to share her life, until an unexpected turn of events leaves her and her fellow townsfolk shaken and shocked.

I loved this book.  Having read one of the author’s books before and enjoyed it, I was anticipating enjoying this, but it just swept me away to a different world – something that hasn’t happened to me with a book for a while. 

It’s a really easy read, but so much more than just another love story, and I found myself really drawn into the beautifully written characters and their lives.  Fabulous!

Caroline x

Title: Madwoman on the Bridge
Author : Su Tong
Rating : 4/10
Great for : being left wanting

Sorry everyone for being MIA for a little while. It’s been a bit of a busy time and I’m still schlecking through Wolf Hall which is taking AGES!  Happily, APoW and I have a new contributor on board (welcome again, Caroline!) so you’re in safe hands. Last week though I went on a quick holiday and, unable to take Wolf Hall with me for falling foul of airline weight restrictions, I took Madwoman on the Bridge by Su Tong.

First off, I wanted to say that it was given to me by a friend who said “I think this is a really good book for you” – should I be offended?!

Anyways, it turned out that the book was actually a collection of short stories set in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution in China.  They’re written as though they were a collection of snapshots into little incidents in everyday life during a turbulent time.   To be honest, it’s all a bit bizarre and unsatisfying.  I wonder if something was lost in the translation?

Not really my kind of book at all – I couldn’t get my teeth stuck into it.  Happily though, a RISI swap has just landed through the letterbox and yes, you’ve guessed it! It’s a WW2 saga. SO looking forward to that though I wonder if I should plough on with Wolf Hall and finish that first…..hmmmm.