Book 74 and 75 – Little Lies and Daughter

Little Lies is written by Liane Moriarty whose first book “The husband’s secret” I loved for its darkness and twists really taking a critical look at middle  class lives in a humorously dark way.  “Little Lies” is no different about a P1 class in a middle class beach resort in Australia.  How a single mum who doesn’t fit into the ideal mother is judged on the first day and found wanting which sets up a parent camp of those who judge her and those who don’t.  It’s about the impact that has on her son.  Is he a bully or is he innocent?  It’s about friendship of women and being there for them in the toughest of times.  It’s about what really goes on behind closed doors of even what seems like the perfect family.  And then throughout the book you know someone is murdered someone is the murderer but bet you won’t guess who gets killed and who does the killing.  Safe to say I loved this book too and look forward to her next book.

Daughter has been highly acclaimed and I downloaded both books on my Kindle and read them both one after the other.  I loved the blackness of “Little Lies” but I didn’t like the blackness of “Daughter” by Jane Shemilt.  It’s about a family who seem to be fairly normal then their daughter disappears and the story is about how the family cope with this or don’t.  I didn’t see the huge twist at the end coming and that was good.  But apart from that I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I thought it would.  The main character is the mother who I quickly came to dislike intensely.  And there were few redeeming features about the remainder of the family either including the missing daughter.

Two “black” books one I enjoyed greatly the other I really didn’t enjoy at all despite the twist at the end.  Read both though in double quick time ideal for weekend reading or a journey to pass the time.

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Book 73 – Hero on a Bicycle – Shirley Hughes

This was a book that as soon as I spotted it in hardback in the children’s section in our local bookshop I knew I wanted to read .  But I waited till it was out in paper back then bought it for my son and I to read.

My son and I have struggled to fit in bedtime reading recently as he’s increased his sporting activities this term and is now out several nights a week with only time for a quick tuck in and no reading.  But we both found that we were missing the reading sessions so have made an effort on the night’s that he is in to make time for reading and managed to read Hero on a Bicycle very quickly.  We were home alone on Friday night so settled down for an hour or so to complete the book.

It is as the title suggests about a boy and his bike.  But the reason that he is a hero is that he lives in Florence at the end of the second world war and he and his mother and sister become involved with the resistance by hiding Allied soldiers in their cellar despite the fact that they are already under suspicion by the Gestapo as their Father is in the Partisans.

This was one of those books that brought history to life the fear of the Gestapo.  The hope of the allied soldiers getting through.  The brutality and loss of life on both sides.  And the horrors of war and how it can tear families apart.  By the end of the book the Germans are on the run and the book shows the fear on their part too and that not all of them wanted war but had to fight.  There is a harrowing scene where the sister and brother are trying to get back home and meet a German soldier that they know he implores them not to go down the road they are on as there are landmines so they turn back he and his men go on and he is blown up.  This is covered in a way that can be read to kids but I respected the fact from a historical point of view it is historically accurate.

A good book that both my son and I enjoyed and often read more at night as we had to know what happened next.  I liked the historical accuracy of this book while giving you compelling vulnerable characters who you wanted to survive.  Would suggest you don’t read to anyone under ten but for older children with an interest in history this is a very good read.


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Books 69 – 72 – 50p for 3 Books

I haven’t written a book review for weeks and weeks.  I have been reading though and now have a back log of book reviews to write-up.  This was a fear I had when I was on holiday that I would read so much that I would have a book review back log.  But thanks to my Kindle and its Word Press App and lots of time to read and review.  I was able to be up to date when I returned from holiday in July.  Recent weeks have been very busy with work and lots going on with the kids that I now have myself in that back log that I dreaded on holiday.  Going to make an attempt to catch up by linking books together in reviews and trying to allocate time to write them.

So there is a link to the first three of these four books.  My son bought me three books in the one book on a visit to the library.  He was delighted with his present for me “Mum a bargain three books for 50p.”

The first book was by Lisa Jewell “31 Dream Street” which I had read before but re read.  It’s about a man who is given a house by his dad with a sitting older tenant.  He finds himself taking in lodgers for limited rent all who have stories to tell and like him haven’t quite worked out what to do with their lives.  Then his sitting tenant dies leaving him a considerable amount of money and sage advise and he realises he needs to sort out his life and work out what he wants to do with it but first he needs to sort his tenants out.

The second books was “Hidden” by Katy Gardner about a woman who marries someone after a whirl wind romance and moves to the country with him and then finds out she doesn’t really know him at all.  Then he disappears and shortly afterwards so does her young daughter.  Although I did guess the ending it kept me entertained and reading and I really enjoyed this book.

The third book in this book of three was “The Two Mrs Robinsons” which as the name suggests is about two women with one man.  But very quickly the man dies and they are both left alone with their respective children and a joint debt.  Interesting take on how women get on with one another when they really would rather have nothing to do with one another.  The setting is York which is a city I have been to a few times so could relate to the location.  All in all my son was right for 50p these books were a bargain.

The last book was a huge disappointment as I had read her previous book and loved it as I laughed out loud at her take of family life.  “Mad about you” by Sinead Moriarty.  But her book “The secret sisters keep” did not cut the mustard for me.  It was about three sisters all facing issues and their family.  It was ok but strongly lacked substance for me and although there were funny parts it was not as witty or as clever as “Mad about you.”

So now on holiday for a week so hoping that means I not only get time to read lots but that I also manage to catch up with my book review back log.  My aim when I started 2014 was to write a review on each and every book that I read which if I don’t catch up soon I might not achieve.  It was also to read 100 books over the year I am also doubting that I will achieve that but I can try as I love a challenge just need to slow my life down first to make the time.

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Book 68 Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Most days can be fairly mundane and follow the normal routines of our every days lives.  It’s not that there is anything wrong with that it is just how life is and often we are grateful that they happen like that as it means life is running as normal.  However when a mundane day is struck by an unexpected gift it pulls it out of the mundane into a special day.  So it was with me when I came home to a parcel with a book in it with a letter from a school friend.  It was her favourite book and she wanted me to read it.

I can’t tell you how much this unexpected gift meant to me so much so that I found it hard to start the book if I am honest.  I have a life long habit of being really touched by unexpected gifts or gifts for Birthdays and Christmase’s that are so right for me that I don’t use them.

I don’t know why it’s as if by using them the specialness goes away which of course it doesn’t.  Recent years have made me realise that any gift has been given to be used in the here and now not treasured for a day that may or may not come.  So after months of reading and re reading the letter and stroking the book I thought “Fiona Drane stop it and get reading.”

Shantaram is 933 pages of some of the best writing I have ever read.  At first I was daunted by a book of this magnitude but by the end I was sad it was finished.  The book is set in the 1980’s in Bombay.  It is the true story of Gregory David Roberts who was an armed robber from Australia who escaped from prison and headed to India.  It is the story of his time there which includes going back into drugs, living the high life, living the low life in the slums, finding himself, falling in love, going to prison and realising the true meaning of humanity.

I have never visited India and although I would love to the sheer size of the population for someone who can get claustrophobic daunts me if I am honest.  But the more I have read of the country the more it fascinates me.  This book again brings India to life.  It’s corruption but how the whole country know how things work and abide by the rules however corrupt and senseless they seem.  The increasing prosperity alongside the huge poverty.  Man’s in humanity to man alongside our ability to live and love in communities.  India’s love of cooking where no matter where you live cooking and food is the centre of the household.  And most of all Indians ability to see the positive side of life even when all to a Western person would seem as bleak as it gets.

No one exemplifies this more than one of the lead characters Prabaker a poor man from the countryside who has come to Bombay to make a better life who be friends Gregory and awakens something in him dead for many years.  I am going to finish this review with Gregory’s tribute to Prabaker which shows the beauty of the writing and also the sorrow of losing someone who in a year of loss I could relate to:

“At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread, of course, is that we won’t stop loving them, even after they’re dead and gone.  For I still love you with the whole of my heart, Prabaker.  I still love you.  And sometimes, my friend, the love that I have, and can’t give to you, crushes the breath from my chest. Sometimes, even now, my heart is drowning in a sorrow that has no stars without you, and no laughter, and no sleep.”

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Book 67: Robert Harris – An Officer and a Spy

This was my book club book for September chosen in part as it was the 2014 Sir Walter Scott Prize Winner.  I was really looking forward to reading it as I loved the 2013 prize-winning novel “The Garden of Evening Mists.”  This book was not in the same realm and through out the book I kept wondering why it had been chosen as the 2014 winner.  This question was also asked when the book was discussed at my book club at Mainstreet Trading in St Boswells.

That said I did enjoy An Officer and a Spy.  It is set in 1895 in France and focuses on the famous Dreyfus affair.  A Jewish officer  who was wrongly convicted as a traitor.  The novel focuses on Picquart an officer who is brought into the intelligence unit and while there starts to uncover the corruption surrounding the conviction.  There were three main reasons why I did enjoy this book.

Firstly I studied history at University and much of it was focused on the First and Second World Wars and although I did study some late 19th century history it is not an era I am well read on.  With the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World war it was fascinating in this book to read about the tensions and hostility between France and Germany at this stage following the Alsace wars.  And why France had aligned herself with Russia.  You can see clearly in 1895 that the First World War was starting to be inevitable.

Secondly much of the book is about the rife anti-Semitism in France at all levels of society and the venomous way they treated their Jewish citizens.  So often today due to the Second World War we view Nazi Germany as being anti Semitic.  The truth is that the whole of Europe was and had been for some time .  Perhaps its easier on our conscience to think that but the plain truth was that there wasn’t a country in Europe who was exempt.

Thirdly this book shows corruption in Government and the scary ways that governments take to ensure that their corruption and mistakes are not discovered.  It’s easy sometimes when reading history to think that was then this is now.  But I have always believed that history repeats itself over and over again.  As societies rarely learn from their mistakes.  Through out the novel I did shiver at points when the main character’s life is turned upside down as he believed in the truth and justice and wondered how many people today in this country and across the world are facing the same issues.

After a slow start I did enjoy an Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris and did take a few hours out to finish it as the tension in the story built.  I am now going to read his famous novel “Fatherland”.  I just didn’t think it was an award-winning book but who am I to say?

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Books 64, 65 and 66 of 2014 Enzo Complete

As I have mentioned many times in this blog I love Peter May’s Lewis trilogy.  I recently got asked to say what me favourite books of all time were.  No question one of Peter May’s had to be in.  I love all three of the Lewis books but for me Lewis man is my favourite for it’s story line and also for its various locations across the Hebrides and Edinburgh.  So I started his Enzo series when I was on holiday on Harris.  Read the first three very quickly and I knew that once I started I needed to finish them so read the last three in one greedy gulp.

The Enzo books are set in France great to read them as this time of the year as the warm weather means that you can readily imagine yourself there.  Reading in order the next one up was Blow Black when Enzo is told that he’s terminally ill and then his daughter is nearly murdered.  This is a real page turner as you want to know who is attacking him and his family.  Mixed with this is a Madeline McCann child abduction which tells the story of a boy taken from his parents and what happened to him once he grew up.  There were parts of the plot I guessed but many I didn’t it was a very exciting book that had me on edge must of the time.

The next book was called Freeze Frame this was set on a island of the Brittany Coast.  A unsolved murder where the murder victim left clues in his study as to who the killer was but its now many years since the murder happened.  Enzo is appointed by the daughter – in -law of the victim.  This story has a Nazi link though who, what, why and how it takes till the end to find out keeping you again turning that page.

Finally Back Light Blue set in the world of French Cuisine again an old murder the murder of a top French chef just outside his restaurant.  Enzo ropes his daughter in to help so she is working in the kitchen while he has been appointed by the family to solve the murder.  You will find yourself hungry at many points as the food served is amazing as does the wine which also plays a central part.  I guessed the ending on this one though that did not disappoint.

I enjoyed the Enzo books.  I am still not convinced that I like Enzo and he is a terrible womaniser.  But I do like his family and that draws me back to find out what happens to them and also to see what happens in his love life.  I have heard that there will maybe be another book and if so will definitely read it.  As let’s be honest anything that Peter May writes I love to read.

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Books 62 and 63

I have read six books this month but have not caught up writing reviews for them on this blog.  Varied excuses.  One I have been juggling child care and work and two I have suffered most of the month with toothache which has dragged me down somewhat.  So have been doing the minimum to get by.  But kids back to school now.  Toothache not over but getting better.  So time to catch up with book reviews.

Book 62 is written by the historian who was on Restoration Man on CH4 Kate Williams.  She has just published her first novel set in the First World War called “The Storms of War”.  It is about a wealthy German Family living in Britain in 1914 and takes you through what happens to them over the course of the four years.  They regard themselves as British but they are not regarded as such by the Brits  and it was a very good insight into how that might have felt and how awful it must have been to be treated as a traitor when you weren’t.  The book takes you to the Front and Kate Williams doesn’t hide how awful and gruesome and brutal that was.  She also looks at internment on the Isle of Man and elsewhere and finally how life was for women at the home front.  As she is a historian you know it is very accurate.  Many of the characters including the main female lead I didn’t warm too but in some ways that didn’t matter.  It did what I wanted gave me a real insight into life 100 years ago.

Book 63 “A Possible Life” by Sebastian Faulks I thought also was about the war this time the second.  I love his books and the cover both front and back drew me to buy it.  But once I started reading the book I realised that it was a book of short stories.  I am not a short story fan they are in short too short for me to get into them.  And I felt let down as I thought it was a novel.  So though the first story was excellent though very sad.  I struggled with the rest and overall it was a huge disappointment though that said I do love his writing and ability to create fully formed characters.

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