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review 2016-02-15 23:21
Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life - C.S. Lewis

Like so many others, I greatly enjoyed the Narnia series when I was growing up. I read it for fun and had no idea that it was a Christian allegory until I was an adult. While my daughters enjoyed them (one has read them at least four times) they disappointed me somewhat as an adult. However, I have tried a few times to read other books by Lewis, but this is the first one I’ve made it all the way through. To be honest, what kept me going is that this will be part of a book discussion with some old reading friends. I read a chapter per day as if it were a school assignment.


The two stars are not because Lewis was unable to write or articulate his thoughts, because he certainly did. However, as a memoir of his journey to atheism and then to Christianity, a subject of keen interest to me, it ended up having little appeal. It was more of his educational and intellectual journey through his youth, punctuated by descriptions of life away at different schools, until he became a Christian. Of course, it’s another example of a brilliant intellectual coming around from atheism to Christianity, something so many feel is impossible, but there was little to tug at my heartstrings or to empathize or sympathize as much with him as I would have liked to given so many of his circumstances. Perhaps it’s because he write it when he was will into his fifties and was so far removed, but I think perhaps it may have been because he was not ever given to having many friends when he was growing up, nor did he really want them most of the time, and those he did make were usually as intellectual as he was.


That said, Lewis had some interesting insights at times, but what I found irksome was that girls and women tend to only appear as the odd relative hosting some sort of gathering (his mother died when he was very young) almost another species, or were referred to in light of erotic passion not being a substitute for joy, or how lack of girls in the area led to increased pederasty in public school and how it affected or was affected by the social hierarchy (that’s the term he employed for that) or other things equally bereft of any recognition of women as humans with a capacity for intelligence.

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review 2016-02-14 21:36
Mariana - Monica Dickens

Mary Shannon has gone away to brood while her husband is at war in WW II. During a storm she hears on the radio that her husband's ship has gone down; frantically, she tries to telephone to get news, but her line is down. During the long night, she remembers her life from about age 8, and it is part coming of age and part becoming her own person. This is the second novel by Monica Dickens, the great- granddaughter of Charles Dickens, and she said that it was semi-autobiographical.

Part of this book gripped me more than others. I did root for Mary, even if she was often self-centered; I think that is a natural part of most children's development, and if she didn't get out of it as early as many of us think she should have, just look around at how many self-centred teens and early twenties people there are today. 

As far as women authors went, Monica Dickens was only outsold at that time by Daphne du Maurier, however, her work hasn't remained as popular over time. I haven't read du Maurier for years, so can't give a good comparison as to why, but I do think it's a shame she's so little known now. I didn't love this book, although I suspect that when I was younger I'd have liked it more.

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review 2015-01-18 06:27
White Lies
White Lies - Jo Gatford

By Jo Gatford 

ISBN: 9781910162040
Publisher: Legend Press
Publication Date: 7/1/2015
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4 Stars


A special thank you to Legend Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


WHITE LIES a riveting contemporary debut by British author, Jo Gatford tackles family drama and complexities; with highly-charged subjects of mental illness, aging, end of life care, grief, dementia, parenthood, paternity, jealous sibling rivalry . . . and dark family secrets. More of a psychological suspense family drama.


Told in alternating voices we hear from the following for a week long saga:


Matthew is a grown man and has discovered his brother, Alex is not really his brother at all. His dad is not Peter? (Lydia left a letter). Shortly thereafter, Alex has a brain aneurysm and dies (on Matt’s birthday), outside his flat after an argument. He secretly thinks Alex did this on purpose to haunt him. Matt hates his brother; however, feels some guilt. Another question, if Alex is not Peter’s son, then why does his dad love Alex more? An ongoing question throughout the book - is this elementary school?


Matthew’s mother, Heather left the hospital as soon as he was born and has not been seen since. Matthew is obsessed with learning answers of why his mother left and why his dad, Peter loves Alex more than he. He thinks his dad is the only one with the answers. Always looking to blame someone.


Since Peter’s mind is not very stable, due to dementia, he knows there is not much time to gather his answers and it will be too late. It has been thirty six long years and he still cannot bring himself to ask his dad. Now it appears it is too late. All his dad talks about is Alex. He does not want him to die without telling him the truth; what really happened to his mother? 


Peter, seventy-four years old, the dad; was married to Heather (first wife) and Lydia (second wife). His world has been reduced to a single room in the third-nicest dementia nursing home in the south east and his mind is downsizing, as well. His dread is knowing there will come a day when he blithely will give away all the things that should never be known. He fears as his brain melts, his tongue will loosen, and secrets could slip out.


The only way he is assured they have not done so already is the fact that they are still speaking to him. He has had two wives, and three children. He also went to Gloria a psychic after the police quite looking for Heather; she knows things.


Peter’s voice in the novel was the most absorbing and chilling. He is always vacillating between his dementia and worrying about keeping his secrets from his children. He still cannot accept the death of his son and flashes back to an earlier time he desires to forget. From humorous, to heartbreaking readers hear the innermost thoughts (the kids are so mean, who cares)? Peter is concerned about aging and does not want to be a burden, and lives in fear and denial and does not want to face disgrace or the truth.


Angela, step daughter still manages to love Peter who raised her like a daughter, stuck in between the pieces of a badly-fitted family jigsaw. Her mother was Lydia. The best part was when Clare tells her grandfather about her pregnancy, and he is thinking, “Darling granddaughter, find a sucker just like me to help you raise it.”


Peter's quote: “We make a crooked family tree. Twisted and diseased marked with an X for destruction. I can feel the roots in my forehead-gnarled old veins sticking out like embodiment of bitterness. I take two pills for the pain. (there is always the pills and the letters).


No likable characters here. No warm and fuzzy. Matt is self-loathing, a total monster. Peter is a martyr, Alex, was not much better, and Claire (niece), unpleasant to say the least. The only one you can sympathize with somewhat is Peter in his own twisted way.


I did enjoy the interaction with the other people in the assisted living facility which would make you laugh out loud and Peter’s thoughts. This was not a feel-good novel, more of a dark humor and somewhat a realistic view of many dysfunctional families, as why I like to stay far away from mine. When you remain at least 16 hrs away, you do not have to be involved in their daily drama.


The impressive part of the book is the writing, with great insights and depth with humor mixed in to offset the self-absorption, lies, and illness. The author addresses complexities of dementia, stress, and coping, as well as the flashbacks of Peter through the phases and milestones of his life as he recalls them -- Nicely done by Gatford. From childhood to parenthood, to old age.


On a personal note: As my parents are in their late 80s, one with cancer and one with leukemia, aging and healthcare is always front and center. We as baby boomers are facing our own future, while worried about the care of elderly parents, and tough healthcare decisions, as we see ourselves not too far behind.A scary thought --the time flies by as we see our new wrinkles each day.   


I find it intriguing to read novels of dark family secrets--makes me often wonder what mine are hiding.  Looking forward to reading more from this newfound British author!


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1159230125
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review 2014-10-17 11:09
Time Of Death by James Craig
Time of Death: An Inspector Carlyle Mystery (Inspector Carlyle Mysteries) - James Craig

Inspector Carlyle investigates the murder of Agatha Mills, which took place in her apartment across the street from the British museum. Her husband is arrested for the murder as all evidence point to Henry Mills's guilt. But he refuses to admit it was him and commits suicide.

What started out as an open-and-shut-case becomes something totally different soon, although nobody, except Inspector Carlyle, is convinced. The ripple effect across London, diplomatic offices, and international companies, forces the laid-back detective to work longer hours than he hoped for. After all, life is pretty mediocre in his quarters and he doesn't appreciate his feathers being ruffled too much. He loves his walks around town, since he never learnt to drive, doesn't even possess a license to do so. He enjoys his elongated breaks away from the office, his slow breakfasts and lunches in quaint little restaurants, and a personal mobile phone which he seldom answers. Off and on he remembers to visit the gym. He needs to stay in shape, right? Yes, he is a slow mover, a relaxed person, a quiet operator. However, his mannerisms are making a lot of people nervous. Very nervous. Especially when he refuses to close the case and hand in the report. 

I don't want to go into the complicated plot, developing after the first murder, and spoil the surprise. The drama keeps the reader hooked way more hours than was planned as it is. Losing-sleep-hooked. Nothing spectacularly dramatic hammers away at the heart muscles, or causes severe headaches, but below the seemingly suave exterior an angry river is pulsing through the story. Manipulation, corruption, back-stabbing, greed and danger: it's all there and it's very real. 

The protagonist is brought alive in all his splendor. Everything about the detective's life is painted in multiple colors. He becomes important to the reader. The dangers facing him becomes our concerns. His enemies shake up our core much more than the inspector's. He is not a nice man in every sense. The reader might not even like his attitude at all. And yet, we are rooting for him in getting his job done. A constant sense of foreboding is keeping the reader at it, come time or social objections to the opposite! The suspense is heightened by John Carlyle's 'casual' encounters with the antagonists. A joke and a laugh neutralize many volatile situations. But he is also a man who does not steer away from raising the stakes and getting people jittery and drinking away their concerns about his slow but steady approach into their lives and secrets. They know he is coming for them in his own way. 

The story is multifaceted. In fact, it is rich in British textures and hues. I was pleasantly surprised with the content of the plot. There is a constant hanging knife suspended over the characters'lives. The suspense becomes intense, unbearable! The ending....mmmm....no comment. It might be a cliffhanger, for all I know, since this book forms part of a series. But it was good enough for now, anyway.

A wonderful, relaxing, yet intriguing read. I haven't read the author before, but will certainly consider his other books. I enjoy his writing style. You don't need any other relaxers with this kind of book in hand.

The book was provided by Witness Impulse through edelweissabovethetreeline.com for review. Thank you for this excellent opportunity.

Source: something-wordy-reviews.blogspot.com/2014/10/time-of-death-by-james-craig.html
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review 2013-11-15 09:31
Fortunate by Andrew JH Sharp
Fortunate - Andrew JH Sharp


Genres: British novel, African adventure, Mystery, Historical fiction, Drama, Suspense, Zimbabwe
Original title: Fortunate
Number of pages: 368
Formats: Paperback, Kindle, Nook
ISBN:  1783060018 (ISBN13: 9781783060016)
Publishers: Troubador Publishing Ltd
Publishing date: July, 1st, 2013
Edition language: English

Purchase links: AmazonBarnes & Noble


Amazon Book Blurb:
From the winner of the 2010 Waverton Good Read Award comes another good read. Beth Jenkins – locum doctor, semi-bereaved wife – runs away from home at the age of twenty-eight and a half and becomes heroine of a revolution.
Locked into a lonely future by a cruel twist of fate, Beth reaches breaking point, leaves her husband, and flees to faraway Zimbabwe. But there she finds herself at the centre of a deadly struggle for the ownership of a farm. From a guest of honour at the President’s table to a disastrous decision that betrays a good man, her fresh start threatens to end in catastrophe. Does the land, and its painted rocks, hold clues to atonement and re-found love?
Fortunate is an intelligent, moving novel with a gripping plot about how to defy fate and about the relationship we have with the land we live on.



A true story embedded in fiction. From this angle the reader can expect that drama will be limited and characters cotton-wrapped. In a sense it is true.

Yet, Beth Jenkins, a locum doctor, young and somewhat lost in a one-year old marriage to the love of her life - who lost his mind, has enough on her plate, and enough inexperience to make a royal mess of things. Especially when she gets entangled with her patients such as Mr. de Villier. He needs a favor, and Beth has enough challenges, with her demanding mother-in-law, a new mysterious friend, Fortunate, and circumstances pressuring her, to evacuate her poshy life in England for the more intimidating African bush. 


Zimbabwe has just been liberated. What promised to be heaven soon proved to be hell-on-steroids for the inhabitants and a little bit better for tourists with pockets full of spending money. For illegal tourists it gets even more tougher and thrilling! The adventures are more intense, the ambiance volatile. That is where Beth's break from her own reality leads her to. She would make enough mistakes to last her a lifetime, but would gain enough new insight into a world her husband, as an archaeologist, discovered and loved. Her voyage will ultimately lead her home - a place she was unable to find before. Home. It is not what she thought it was.

It is a great story. A relaxing, informative, adventure. A soft-landing for anyone interested in reading more about the African lifestyle behind the glitz and glamour of an African Safari, but with the same intensity and feeling of being-there. Really being there. Nothing in the book is outrageously extravagant or overly exaggerated. On the contrary! ...

This is a really enjoyable book. It is multidimensional - covering the life of a young woman finding her path in life, meeting warm-hearted, sincere Africans, introducing tragicomedian politicians acting out their mafia-style looting of a continent's resources, and addressing loves lost and found. These elements serve a smorgasbord of different interests, which makes it an informative, great read. 

It is the second book of Andrew J. H. Sharp that I read. I am looking forward to the third, for sure. 



Source: wingbackchoices.blogspot.com/2013/11/fortunate-by-andrew-jh-sharp.html
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