Format: Paperback

The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec (3/5)

Posted August 18, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec (3/5)The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec
Published by Virago Press Ltd on September 4th 2014
Genres: Food, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Personal Memoirs, Travel
Pages: 211
Format: Paperback
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"A relationship was a mathematical formula: the correct variables of age, beauty, morality and finances were entered and the output was a successful, peaceful marriage. It couldn’t be, therefore, that their Iranian son could feel desire for someone six years his senior, someone who didn’t come to him pure and untouched. I was an amusing visitor from another world and soon enough I should return to it, fading quietly into an anecdote …"
In her thirties, Jennifer Klinec abandons a corporate job to launch a cooking school from her London flat. Raised in Canada to Hungarian-Croatian parents, she has already travelled to countries most people are fearful of, in search of ancient recipes. Her quest leads her to Iran where, hair discreetly covered and eyes modest, she is introduced to a local woman who will teach her the secrets of the Persian kitchen.
Vahid is suspicious of the strange foreigner who turns up in his mother’s kitchen; he is unused to seeing an independent woman. But a compelling attraction pulls them together and then pits them against harsh Iranian laws and customs.
Getting under the skin of one of the most complex and fascinating nations on earth, The Temporary Bride is a soaring story of being loved, being fed, and the struggle to belong.

I selected this as my read for the “food memoir” task for Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge.

Set in Iran, I have to say my mouth was watering with many of the descriptions of local delicacies. It’s clear that the author is passionate about food, recipes, provenance and learning authentic dishes from around the world. However Klinec also comes across as spoilt and selfish. The product of rich parents who seemed to care more about money than their children.

Alongside the food memoir, this is also a story of love. Klinec meets Vahid, an Iranian citizen, who invites her to visit his family and learn from his mother’s cooking. They start a relationship which seems to be doomed from the very beginning.

Reading about her relationship with Vahid, I started to feel angry towards Jennifer. She seemed to be selfish and single-minded, with no real thought to the position she was putting Vahid in with regards his family and his community. That said, by the end my feelings had mellowed slightly, but I still think she could have been more respectful of the circumstances she was in.

For a food memoir, this book is also sorely lacking in recipes! For all she clearly has a love of the food she discovered, there was no further information on the dishes, which was really disappointing.

This was a good read and I enjoyed it. But the inclusion of some recipes would have made it even better!

Essays by George Orwell

Posted August 15, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Essays by George OrwellGeorge Orwell: Essays (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell
Published by Penguin on January 2nd 2014
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Non-Fiction, Political, Short Stories (single author), Social History
Pages: 466
Format: Paperback
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This outstanding collection brings together Orwell’s longer, major essays and a fine selection of shorter pieces that includes My Country Right or Left, Decline of the English Murder, Shooting an Elephant and A Hanging.
With great originality and wit Orwell unfolds his views on subjects ranging from the moral enormity of Jonathan Swift’s strange genius and a revaluation of Charles Dickens to the nature of Socialism, a comic yet profound discussion of naughty sea-side picture postcards and a spirited defence of English cooking. Displaying an almost unrivalled mastery of English plain prose style, Orwell’s essays challenge, move and entertain.

I have always enjoyed Orwell’s writing. Like many people, Nineteen Eighty Four is one of my favourite books. But I had never read any of his essays before now. I chose this book specifically for Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge and I wasn’t disappointed.

This is a real mix bag of stories. From the short to the long; from diatribes on Charles Dickens to essays on “Bookshop Memories”; this book has it all. Although many of the essays are now 80 or more years old, they still hold a remarkable amount of relevance.

A lot of the writing is founded upon Orwell’s socialist leanings, and many essays cover uncomfortable topics such as war and death. The writing certainly isn’t what you would call “politically correct” in today’s terms, with numerous references to the N-word, C-word and F-word, among others. These are all in context – especially when viewed against the backdrop of the time – however if you’re likely to be offended by such language, then give this book a miss.

It would be a shame to miss out though, as this is a superb collection of essays, which are incredibly readable and still very relevant today.

The Secret by Kathryn Hughes (4/5)

Posted August 13, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

The Secret by Kathryn Hughes (4/5)The Secret: The #1 Bestselling Author by Kathryn Hughes
Published by Headline Review on September 8th 2016
Genres: Family Saga, Fiction
Pages: 416
Format: ARC, Paperback
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From the #1 bestselling author of The Letter comes The Secret - a heartbreaking novel of tragedy, hope and second chances. Fans of Jojo Moyes and Amanda Prowse will love the moving human drama of Kathryn Hughes. 'A wonderful uplifting story' Lesley Pearse on The Letter
Mary has been nursing a secret. Forty years ago, she made a choice that would change her world for ever, and alter the path of someone she holds dear.
Beth is searching for answers. She has never known the truth about her parentage, but finding out could be the lifeline her sick child so desperately needs. When Beth finds a faded newspaper cutting amongst her mother's things, she realises the key to her son's future lies in her own past. She must go back to where it all began to unlock...The Secret.

I have to say that this isn’t the usual kind of book I would be drawn to, but I was fortunate enough to win a copy from Headline Review on Twitter. I’m so pleased that I did as I absolutely loved this book!

The book follows Beth, who has never known who her father was. After her mother’s death, she starts to unearth secrets which will rock her family to its very core. The story is told along two timelines – modern-day with Beth, her husband Michael and their 5-year old son Jake, who has end stage liver failure; and flashbacks to 1975 when a group of people were involved in a fatal road crash. As Beth finds out more about her past, the two stories come together in a fantastic story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, and can’t thank Headline Review enough for this proof copy. I wouldn’t have picked up this book normally, but I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author.

Spectacles by Sue Perkins

Posted August 11, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Spectacles by Sue PerkinsSpectacles by Sue Perkins
Published by Penguin on July 28th 2016
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 437
Format: Paperback
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Spectacles is the hilarious, creative and incredibly moving memoir from much loved comedian, writer and presenter Sue Perkins.
When I began writing this book, I went home to see if my mum had kept some of my stuff. What I found was that she hadn't kept some of it. She had kept all of it - every bus ticket, postcard, school report - from the moment I was born to the moment I finally had the confidence to turn round and say 'Why is our house full of this shit?'
Sadly, a recycling 'incident' destroyed the bulk of this archive. This has meant two things: firstly, Dear Reader, you will never get to see countless drawings of wizards, read a poem about corn on the cob, or marvel at the kilos of brown flowers I so lovingly pressed as a child. Secondly, it's left me with no choice but to actually write this thing myself.
This, my first ever book, will answer questions such as 'Is Mary Berry real?', 'Is it true you wear a surgical truss?' and 'Is a non-spherically symmetric gravitational pull from outside the observable universe responsible for some of the observed motion of large objects such as galactic clusters in the universe?'
Most of this book is true. I have, of course, amplified my more positive characteristics in an effort to make you like me.
Thank you for reading.

Praise for Spectacles

'Drama, tears and laughs - Spectacles has got it all. A brilliant, touching memoir suffused with love, it reminds you that life is best lived at wonky angles. I ADORED it' Jessie Burton, bestselling author of The Miniaturist
'Very funny . . . It seems there are two Sue Perkins: the TV one, who gabbles and pratfalls, and the sensitive one who aches. The first of course, exists to protect the second. They can both write. The first writes comedy, the second tragedy; in this sense, reading her memoir is very like meeting her'Sunday Times
'It's a proper book . . . so well written. Tight & bright & full of inspiration'Chris Evans, Radio 2

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book since it was published, and although I waited until it was out in paperback, I have to say, it hasn’t disappointed!

This is a very entertaining memoir and glimpse into Sue Perkins’ life. It’s very much written in her “voice” and on occasion feels very much like having a conversation with a good friend over a cup of tea.

Sue comes across on TV as being very energetic and hyper, and this translates into the book with a lot of jumping around between different time periods, and stories left hanging and unfinished. I don’t want to spoil the text for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I did find this annoying and was left with a good few questions at the end of the book.

That said, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read, best enjoyed with a slice of cake and a mug of tea.

Ready. Steady. READ!!!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (5/5)

Posted August 8, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (5/5)A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Published by Picador on August 13th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General
Pages: 720
Format: Paperback
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When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this book in a GoodReads giveaway. This is a book which is not always easy to read, but which is ultimately very rewarding. A friend of mine commented “I’m not yet over this book” – and that’s a very good way of summing up the experience. It stays with you for a long time and demands to be reviewed long after you’ve finished reading it.

The blurb states that it’s about 4 friends from college. In reality it’s about one – Jude St Francis – and his relationship with his 3 close friends from college and other friends. Jude is a seriously damaged young man, who has had a terrible upbringing, The story of his life is revealed through a series of flash-backs and conversations throughout the book.

The book is uncluttered by details. There’s no references to political or newsworthy events (e.g 9/11) and there’s no real placing of time on the story either. Only a sense of place (mainly Boston and New York). I liked this lack of distraction and it helped focus me on the details of the story.

My one criticism would be that sometimes it was hard to tell whose voice was being used for the chapter. The characters are predominantly male, and it was hard to pick up which “he” was being discussed sometimes. But overall this was a brilliant book and I loved it.

It’s definitely a book which I think will benefit from a second reading as well – so this will be staying with me for a little longer.

Dead Pretty by David Mark (1/5)

Posted August 1, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Dead Pretty by David Mark (1/5)Dead Pretty (DS Aector McAvoy, #5) by David Mark
Published by Mulholland on January 28th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Crime, Fiction
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
Source: BookBridgr
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Hannah Kelly has been missing for nine months. Ava Delaney has been dead for five days.
One girl to find. One girl to avenge. And DS Aector McAvoy won't let either of them go until justice can be done.
But some people have their own ideas of what justice means...
DEAD PRETTY is the stunning new novel from one of Britain's most original crime writers.

First of all I would like to thank Bookbridgr and Mulholland for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t for me. I know there are plenty of fans of David Mark’s books, and I can see from other reviews on GoodReads that my 1* review is very much the exception, rather than the rule. Perhaps it’s because this is the 5th book in the series, but the first that I’ve read, so I found it hard to get into the characters. Who knows. Either way it wasn’t for me.

I have an issue in general with detectives in murder/mystery/psychological thrillers having silly names, and “Aector McAvoy” is no exception. Aector?!! It’s a gaelic name according to the author, but not one I’ve ever come across. On top of that one of the characters insisted on calling him “Hector” throughout the book. I thought it was a typo at first, but it was so consistent I decided it must be a “character trait” even though it was intensely annoying.

I couldn’t get on board with the writing either. Another issue I have is the overuse of metaphors in writing, and this book is absolutely peppered with them. Open practically any page and you can find some ridiculous metaphor …

“Jez Gavan and his partner have burrowed in at number 17 like ticks in a dog’s back leg” (p68)

“‘I still receive a birthday card from Doug’, says Jackson-Savannah, like a teenage girl showing off a signed photograph from her favourite boy band” (p56)

“… a billion tiny raindrops hovering like flies” (p202)

And so it goes on. There’s even one comparing someone’s eyes to blue cheese, which annoyingly I can’t find in the book as I write this review. I really should keep notes as I go of such annoying turns of phrase.

There are also lot of repeated phrases including lots of “running his/her tongue over his/her teeth”, words “greasy” with regret, and lots of inaccuracies such as “scalped underarms” (you can only scalp a scalp!) and someone who was described as “making a fist with his toes” which almost had me throwing the book across the room in frustration!

All the literary annoyances aside, I couldn’t really get on-board with the storyline either. It starts with “Aector” being unable to leave a cold case behind and telling his wife, in-depth, all about a missing girl. It then gets very confusing with so many characters coming and going, so many (seemingly unrelated) accidents, gangsters, ex-convicts and police politics, it was hard to follow at times. Even when I finally got to the conclusion it was completely underwhelming.

As I say, this is the 5th in the series and there are plenty of fans of Mark’s books. I’m afraid I am just not one of them.

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (1/5)

Posted July 20, 2016 by Babs in Book Review / 0 Comments
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (1/5)

This book … where to start?! Well – I’m doing Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge and item 19 says “Read a non-fiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes.” … so here I am. What a load of drivel!!!!!!!!! I started working in a very (very!) male dominated area in the late 1990’s. I was […]

The Accident by Chris Pavone

Posted May 3, 2016 by Babs in Book Review / 0 Comments
The Accident by Chris Pavone

This could have been a great book. COULD. HAVE. BEEN! Instead it’s long-winded, tedious, boring and pointless. The premise is a good one. A manuscript with potentially damaging revelations has been carefully, secretively and anonymously penned, and sent to New York literary agent, Isabel Reed, for review. She realises it’s a “once-in-a-lifetime” manuscript and sets about hiring […]

The Blue by Lucy Clarke

Posted April 27, 2016 by Babs in Book Review / 0 Comments
The Blue by Lucy Clarke

After finishing Ruby I wanted something a bit lighter to read, that still had a good enough story to keep me engaged. The Blue by Lucy Clarke seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I had read and enjoyed A Single Breath by the same author last year, so I was looking forward to this book. It’s similar to A Single […]

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Posted April 24, 2016 by Babs in Book Review / 0 Comments
Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Our bookgroup was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the groups to shadow this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. As part of this we were sent copies of our given book – in our case Ruby by Cynthia Bond. I have to admit this isn’t usually a book I would have read to […]