Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

I had this book in my digital pile for a very long time – I think it was a Kindle monthly or daily deal. And I resisted reading it for some reason, but when I finally read it, I liked it.

Here’s the blurb …

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned–from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren–an enigmatic artist and single mother–who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood–and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

This is about motherhood – who gets to be a mother, and the act of mothering itself. It’s also about power structures in communities and families. It is beautifully written and quite confronting (particularly for us mothers). I am giving this one 4 out of 5.

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Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid

It has been a long time – since April – and I have 22 books that need to be blogged (eventually).

This was recommended by a friend and I enjoyed it. Another friend, couldn’t finish it, so it might not be for everyone.

Here’s the blurb …

When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for ‘kidnapping’ the white child she’s actually babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with a ‘personal brand’ and the best of intentions, resolves to make things right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. When she meets someone from Alix’s past, the two women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know – about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege

I am giving this one 3/5. I liked it, but I probably won’t read it again.

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The Mirror and the Light – Hilary Mantel

The Mirror and the Light – Hilary Mantel

The long-awaited third in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

‘If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?’

England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour.

Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

This book will be forever known as my quarantine book – my reading it has co-incided with our lockdown (five weeks now).

This is a large book (physically – I should have bought a kindle version) and it took me a long time to read, but I enjoyed it. I even re-watched the Wolf Hall T.V adaptation. And I have bought Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Thomas Cromwell.

4/5 (too long for 5/5)

Another review.

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A Spring Time Affair – Katie Fforde

A Springtime Affair – Katie Fforde

I have read all of Katie Fforde’s books and I think they are just what we need right now – global pandemic and a lockdown – fun with a happy ending.

Here is the blurb …

It’s the season of new beginnings for Helena and Gilly.

Gilly runs her own B&B business from her much-loved family home, which she doesn’t want to part with – at any price.

But that’s before she meets handsome estate agent Leo, and soon she begins to wonder whether selling up might not be such a bad idea after all.

Meanwhile Gilly’s daughter Helena has a budding romance of her own. A talented weaver, she’s becoming very close to her new landlord, Jago, who’s offered to help her at an upcoming craft fair.

It’s what friends do, and they are just friends. Aren’t they?

With spring in full bloom, Helena and Gilly begin to ask themselves the same question:

Might their new loves lead to happily ever after?

I’m giving this one 4/5.

Another review

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The Game of Kings – Dorothy Dunnett

The Game of Kings – Dorothy Dunnett

I first heard about this series at Cornflower Books and decided to listen to the Audible version.

Here is the Wikipedia summary

Living mostly by his wits and his sword-arm in 16th-century Scotland, Francis Crawford of Lymond is a charismatic figure: polyglot scholar, soldier, musician, master of disguises, nobleman—and accused outlaw. After five years in exile, Lymond has recently returned to Scotland, in defiance of Scottish charges against him for pro-English treason and murder. He has assembled a band of mercenaries and ruffians who follow his ruthless leadership. The reader gradually learns that Lymond has returned with the goal of proving his innocence and restoring his name. To do so, he must find the man who framed him and condemned him to two years as a French galley slave before he managed to escape. His family, the Crawfords, also cannot avoid becoming entangled in the complex politics between England and Scotland, including the Anglo-Scottish wars, Scotland’s alliance with France, and skirmishes in the Borders region.

The novel is constructed as an intricate mystery, punctuated by set pieces of adventure, high comedy, and intense drama. Will Lymond prove himself innocent, die in the attempt, or be captured and hanged? Moreover, who is Lymond, and what are his motives and his true relationships with the other characters? Lymond leaves no one indifferent to him: some of the key characters—such as Richard Crawford, third Baron Culter and Lymond’s older brother, and Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox—are one-time friends or intimates who become his mortal enemies. Betrayals and double-crosses, both potential and actual, abound. The pieces of the mystery only fit together late in the story as revelations at a trial.

A number of historical persons appear in the novel, many as important characters. They include members of the Scott clan including Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, his wife, Janet Beaton, and his son William Scott of Kincurd, who becomes Lymond’s second-in-command in his band of outlaws; Mary of Guise, the Queen Dowager of Scotland and her young daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots; and members of the Douglas family including Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, his brother Sir George Douglas, his daughter Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (niece of Henry VIII), and Margaret’s husband Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, a potential claimant to the Scottish throne if the young Mary, Queen of Scots, died. The English military leaders responsible for prosecuting the war of The Rough Wooing, Sir William Grey and Lord Thomas Wharton, also have prominent, and often comedic, roles.

I really enjoyed it and will definitely read/listen to more in the series. 4/5

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A Common Loss – Kristen Tranter

A Common Loss – Kristen Tranter

Years ago I read The Legacy – and enjoyed it, so when I saw this at a library sale I purchased it. It then took me three years to get around to reading it.

Here’s the blurb

From the critically acclaimed author of The Legacy comes a riveting new novel about a group of friends whose longtime tensions and rivalries are suddenly exposed after one of them dies suddenly.

A WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS PAPERBACK ORIGINAL THEY WERE ORIGINALLY FIVE.

Elliot. Brian. Tallis. Cameron. And Dylan—charismatic Dylan—the mediator, the man each one turned to in a time of crisis. Five close friends, bonded in college, still coming together for their annual trip to Las Vegas. This year they are four. Four friends, sharing a common loss: Dylan’s tragic death. A common loss that, upon their arrival in Vegas, will bring with it a common threat: one that will make them question who their departed friend really was, and whether he was ever worthy of their grief.

“Brimming with blackmail and deception” and “laced with simmering emotional tension” (Australian Bookseller & Publisher), A Common Loss is a hypnotic tale from an exciting new voice in literary fiction.

I enjoyed this one too – although it did take me awhile to realise the narrator was a man. 3/5

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Bruny – Heather Rose

Bruny -Heather Rose

A friend was given this, but doesn’t read novels so passed it onto me. I read The Museum of Modern Love (I don’t seem to have blogged that one), but didn’t appreciate it was the same author.

Here’s the blurb …

How far would your government go?

A right-wing US president has withdrawn America from the Middle East and the UN. Daesh has a thoroughfare to the sea and China is Australia’s newest ally. When a bomb goes off in remote Tasmania, Astrid Coleman agrees to return home to help her brother before an upcoming election. But this is no simple task. Her brother and sister are on either side of politics, the community is full of conspiracy theories, and her father is quoting Shakespeare. Only on Bruny does the world seem sane.

Until Astrid discovers how far the government is willing to go.

Bruny is a searing, subversive, brilliant novel about family, love, loyalty and the new world order.

This novel was compelling – part espionage, romance and family drama. Well-written and thought provoking. 4/5

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Mothering Sunday – Graham Swift

Mothering Sunday – Graham Swift

This is the first book of 2020 for my historical book club.

Here’s the blurb …

It is March 30th 1924.

It is Mothering Sunday.

How will Jane Fairchild, orphan and housemaid, occupy her time when she has no mother to visit? How, shaped by the events of this never to be forgotten day, will her future unfold?

Beginning with an intimate assignation and opening to embrace decades, Mothering Sunday has at its heart both the story of a life and the life that stories can magically contain. Constantly surprising, joyously sensual and deeply moving, it is Graham Swift at his thrilling best.

I really enjoyed the first two-thirds and was not taken with the last third. 3/5

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Bridge of Clay – Marcus Zusak

Bridge of Clay – Marcus Zusak

This is my book club book for this month (January) – not a book I would have chosen and I am not sure why as I really enjoyed The Book Thief.

Bridge of Clay is about a boy who is caught in the current – of destroying everything he has, to become all he needs to be. He’s a boy in search of greatness, as a cure for memory and tragedy. He builds a bridge to save his family, but also to save himself. It’s an attempt to transcend humanness, to make a single, glorious moment:

A miracle and nothing less.

I loved it – found it compelling. It had a generous spirit (and I am not sure why but reminded my of Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe – maybe just all of those boys). 5/5

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A Dance to the Music of Time – Anthony Powell

A Dance to the Music of Time

I watched the TV series and loved it, but I wasn’t sure if I would ever tackle the books. Then DovegreyReader started a year long (one book a month) project and I think I might be able to achieve that.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on A Dance to the Music of Time.

20th January -So far so good, I have finished the first book, which I enjoyed and I have to say the TV series seems to be sticking closely to the novel (at least at this stage).

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