Category Archives: Rating

Come to Me – Amy Bloom

Come to Me – Amy Bloom

A friend left this book behind when they returned home (on the other side of the planet). It has taken me a few years to get to it, which is a shame because I really enjoyed it.

Here’s the blurb …

Amy Bloom’s first collection of short stories takes the reader into the inner lives of characters who encounter the everyday mysteries of need and desire. They include a frightened father in need of redemption, a psychiatrist who oversteps professional boundaries and a small girl eager for love.

The stories are beautifully written, quirky with an old-fashioned feel.

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Filed under 4, Fiction, Recommended, Short Stories

Parable of the Sower – Octavia E Butler

Parable of the Sower – Octavia E Butler

I am not sure where I first heard about this author, but we took Miss P to visit Stefan’s books (definitely worth a visit) and there it was on the shelf.

It was very prescient. My copy has it first being published in 1993 and here it is 2021 and the US is retreating into chaos and madness.

Here’s the blurb …

When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day.

Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others’ pain.

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith…and a startling vision of human destiny.

I found it compelling and I am looking forward to another trip to Stefan’s to pick up the next book The Parable of the Talents.

4 out of 5.

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The Rain Heron – Robbie Arnott

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I bought this from a lovely book store in Bussleton – Viva Books.

Here is the blurb …

Ren lives alone on the remote frontier of a country devastated by a coup. High on the forested slopes, she survives by hunting and trading—and forgetting.

But when a young soldier comes to the mountains in search of a local myth, Ren is inexorably drawn into her impossible mission. As their lives entwine, unravel and erupt—as myths merge with reality—both Ren and the soldier are forced to confront what they regret, what they love, and what they fear.

The Rain Heron is the dizzying, dazzling new novel from the author of Flames. 

This is beautifully written – part fable, part epic quest. This is one of my favourite books for this year. 4 out of 5.

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Filed under 4, Fiction, Recommended

A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

A dear friend passed this onto me. I read it while doing chemotherapy. My thoughts might be tainted.

Here is the blurb …

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India.

The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers–a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village–will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

I have to say upfront that I know nothing about India. (I thought Mrs Ghandi was a relaive of Ghandi). For me the best part of this novel was watching the relationships between the characters develop. These four people trying to have agency in their own lives – find a job, make enough money, find somewhere to live, while the country is in turmoil, political unrest and indiscriminant violence (forced sterialisation anyone?).

I did find the story emotionally draining, just when things were improving for a character something terrible would happen. It was bleak, very bleak. Beautifully written with a fabulous sense of time and place. Three out of five.

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Filed under 3, Fiction, Recommended

The Wife and the Widow – Christian White

The Wife and The Widow – Christian White

This was my book club book – back when I was still reading the books even if I wasn’t attending.

Here’s the blurb …

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and The Widow is an unsettling thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside when she’s forced to confront the evidence of her husband’s guilt. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives.

I like to read the occasional crime novel between other types of fiction and this novel was cheap at target, so I thought I would give it a go.

It was good, the twist wasn’t particularly twisty (I guessed it quite early), but I still found the story compelling. I think if you’re a fan of crime, ten you will like this novel. Three out of five.

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Filed under 3, Crime, Fiction

After Me Comes the Flood – Sarah Perry

After Me Comes the Flood – Sarah Perry

This book languished in my pile for quite some time. I have made a concerted effort this year to reduce my pile.

Here’s the blurb …

Elegant, sinister, and psychologically complex, After Me Comes the Flood is the haunting debut novel by the bestselling author of The Essex Serpent and Melmoth.

On a hot summer’s day, John Cole decides to shut his bookshop early, and possibly forever, and drives out of London to see his brother. When his car breaks down on an isolated road, he goes looking for help and finds a dilapidated house. As he approaches, a laughing woman he’s never seen before walks out, addresses him by name and explains she’s been waiting for him. Entering the home, John discovers an enigmatic clan of residents all of whom seem to know who he is and claim they have been waiting for him to arrive. They seem to be waiting for something else, too—something final

Written before Sarah Perry’s ascension to an internationally bestselling author, After Me Comes the Flood is a spectacular novel of obsession, conviction and providence—a startling investigation of the nature of determination in all senses of the word. Wrote Katherine Angel, author of Unmastered, Perry’s novel “made me think of Fowles’s The Magus, Maxwell’s The Chateau, and Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.” Indeed.

This is not my favourite novel by Sarah Perry – that would be The Essex Serpent, but this was interesting, quirky and a bit confusing. Three out of five.

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The Narrow Land – Christine Dwyer Hickey

The Narrow Land – Christine Dwyer Hickey

This won the Walter Scott Historical Prize for Literature, so clearly I had to read it.

Here’s the blurb …

1950: late summer season on Cape Cod. Michael, a ten-year-old boy, is spending the summer with Richie and his glamorous but troubled mother. Left to their own devices, the boys meet a couple living nearby – the artists Jo and Edward Hopper – and an unlikely friendship is forged.

She, volatile, passionate and often irrational, suffers bouts of obsessive sexual jealousy. He, withdrawn and unwell, depressed by his inability to work, becomes besotted by Richie’s frail and beautiful Aunt Katherine who has not long to live – an infatuation he shares with young Michael.

A novel of loneliness and regret, the legacy of World War II and the ever-changing concept of the American Dream

I enjoyed it, certainly more than To Calais in Ordinary Time, which was on the short list. Three out of five.

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Filed under 3, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Weather – Jenny Offill

Weather – Jenny Offill

I loved The Dept of Speculation, so was super keen to read Weather. I thought I would reserve it at the library and surprisingly I was first (the other people must be idiots).

Here’s the blurb …

From the author of the nationwide best seller Dept. of Speculation–one of the New York Times Book Review‘s Ten Best Books of the Year–a shimmering tour de force about a family, and a nation, in crisis

Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years, she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She’s become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right wingers worried about the decline of western civilization. As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep tending your own garden once you’ve seen the flames beyond its walls. When her brother becomes a father and Sylvia a recluse, Lizzie is forced to address the limits of her own experience–but still she tries to save everyone, using everything she’s learned about empathy and despair, conscience and collusion, from her years of wandering the library stacks…And all the while the voices of the city keep floating in- funny, disturbing, and increasingly mad

I really enjoyed this novel – it has the same style as Dept of Speculation those paragraphs that are separate, but connected. 4 out of 5.

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Filed under 4, Fiction, Recommended

The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Williams

The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Wiliams

I bought this as part of my ‘I’m going to chemo today. so I am buying a book’ plan. The cover and the blurb reduced me.

Here’s the blurb…

In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. While she dedicates her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, secretly, she begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Set when the women’s suffrage movement was at its height and the Great War loomed, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. It’s a delightful, lyrical and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words, and the power of language to shape the world and our experience of it

I really enjoyed the first two thirds of this novel. The setting, the talk of words were beautifully written. And then my enthusiasm waned (could be because I was having chemotherapy). I passed my copy on the my mother-in-law whose book club is reading it. 3 out of 5.

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Filed under 3, Historical Fiction

The Other Bennet Sister – Janice Hadlow

The Other Bennet Sister – Janice Hadlow

As I said in my last post, I don’t often read Jane Austen fan fiction and now I have done two in a row. This was recommended by a friend whose opinion I trust, so I decided to give it a go.

I liked it – it was refreshing to see things from Mary’s point of view. It was long though, and I felt a bit of editing would make a crisper story.

Here’s the blurb …

Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.

What if Mary Bennet’s life took a different path from that laid out for her in Pride and Prejudice? What if the frustrated intellectual of the Bennet family, the marginalized middle daughter, the plain girl who takes refuge in her books, eventually found the fulfillment enjoyed by her prettier, more confident sisters? This is the plot of The Other Bennet Sister, a debut novel with exactly the affection and authority to satisfy Austen fans.

Ultimately, Mary’s journey is like that taken by every Austen heroine. She learns that she can only expect joy when she has accepted who she really is. She must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and prevented her from what makes her happy. Only when she undergoes this evolution does she have a chance at finding fulfillment; only then does she have the clarity to recognize her partner when he presents himself—and only at that moment is she genuinely worthy of love.

Mary’s destiny diverges from that of her sisters. It does not involve broad acres or landed gentry. But it does include a man; and, as in all Austen novels, Mary must decide whether he is the truly the one for her. In The Other Bennet Sister, Mary is a fully rounded character—complex, conflicted, and often uncertain; but also vulnerable, supremely sympathetic, and ultimately the protagonist of an uncommonly satisfying debut novel.

I would recommend this to Jane Austen fans. 3 out of 5.

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Filed under 3, Historical Fiction, Recommended