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review 2018-07-16 18:54
A light, feel-good read, for those who enjoy choral books full of larger-than-life characters.
The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House - Michelle Gorman

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber (check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

Sometimes it seems as if all the books and movies on offer are centred on young protagonists, and I’m not only talking about Young Adult books. However, recently there has been a move towards including older protagonists and subjects. I enjoyed the two Dutch books about Hendrik Groen, a man in his eighties living in a nursing home, and have watched a few movies, usually choral, about older protagonists (like The Exotic Marigold Hotel). The setting of this novel, in a residential home, and the promise of a comedy made it sound like the perfect choice for me.

The first-person narrator of the story is Phoebe, a chef who had a very successful career in a bistro before disaster struck. She loves her job at the residential home (The Jane Austen Home for Ladies, and, as we discover, the name is meaningful in several ways), but has always felt frustrated because her parents (and her mother, in particular) do not seem to value her job and are dismissive of her career. To make matters worse, her mother (a larger-than-life character) dies suddenly at the beginning of the book, but her internalised voice keeps gnawing on her confidence.  Her best friend, June, is the manager of the home, and she fancies Nick, who is the official physiotherapist but also takes on any odd jobs going on (art therapy, gardening, handyman…). I know some readers don’t like first-person narratives, although Phoebe is unassuming, witty and an excellent friend. (On the minus side, her lack of self-confidence can make her sound paranoid and bitchy, and she keeps mulling over things, unable to decide what to do, trying hard to feel comfortable in her own skin and accept the credit for her achievements). We learn some surprising things about her family life together and by the end of the book, although I don’t have much in common with her character, I felt connected to her and appreciated her role as a narrator. Her friendship with June is convincing and their relationship is one of the strongest points of the book.

I also loved the residents of the home, and in many ways (not only due to my age, I hope), I felt closer to them than to the protagonist. We get to know some of them more than others (Maggie is fabulous and I loved Dot, Laney, Sophie, and yes, even Terence). They all feel real, with their foibles and their endearing traits, and make the book memorable. We follow the intrigues that have to do with the home and the changes that take place there (from a women’s only place to a mixed one) and learn about its inhabitants, their secrets, and their past lives. We are both observers and participants in much of the action, and we feel invested in their fates. We learn the importance of accepting people for who they are and moving beyond appearances and prejudices.

There are several romances with happy, or at least hopeful, endings (for the young and the older generations), broken hearts and disappointments, secrets and lies, and there is also the connection (pointed out through references to the book club and their discussions) to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I would not call the novel a variation on Pride and Prejudice but if we think of Austen’s text as we read it we can discover nuances that might be easily missed otherwise.

Although there are many amusing lines in the novel (and some pretty touching ones as well. As we know, humour can be an excellent defence mechanism against hurt), I thought I’d share a few (remember that I got an ARC copy, so there might be some changes to the final version of the novel):

We’ve never let something as trifling as the spectre of death stand in the way of a good snipe.

My mother didn’t get ulcers, she gave them.

He’s a perv-whisperer.

She wouldn’t like my ponytail, though. I did try taking it down, but having it up in a hair tie the entire weekend meant my hair had a ridge along the back that gave it a very White Cliffs of Dover effect.

I’m surprised he doesn’t need an oxygen tank with all the social climbing he’s been doing.

The writing flows well and fits in perfectly with the voice of the narrator, who can spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about her beau but is also attuned to the feelings of the residents and her friend. There are plenty of amusing events taking place throughout the novel that keep the action moving, but the characters are much stronger than the plot and by the end of the book (that I enjoyed) they have all become good friends (or most of them have).

The author defines her books as light reads, as beach novels, and says her readers describe them as “feel-good.” All that is true, although behind all the funny goings-on the book illustrates the importance of keeping expectations and prejudices under control, and it reminds parents that they should encourage their children to find fulfilment in their own terms rather than expect them to make their parent’s dreams come true.  If you are looking for a light read, full of memorable characters, plenty of humour, and a big deal of heart, I’d recommend this novel. And, if it existed in real life, I wouldn’t mind working at the home (and in time even living there) either.

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review 2018-07-01 08:54
Fabulous
The Prince and the Dressmaker - Jen Wang

And no, I'm not being facetious, I loved this thing.

 

I loved the expressive faces (specially Frances' on-going bemused into blank ones), the colorful tone, the hilarious hijinks and of course, the over all theme of acceptance.

 

To all that, I add three awesome scenes: the devil's wench, Juliana meeting Crystallia, and the King's outfit. I hooted and laughed so much I almost fell from my chair.

 

If I got a lump in my throat from the deep love of every type involved in all of it, well...

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review 2018-06-28 04:06
Be good to each-other and Work
An Old-Fashioned Girl - Louisa May Alcott

Pretty much an edifying book packaged into a collection of stories of a wholesome country-girl visiting her city-girl friend. Second part, written later, continues the theme with the girls grown up, and the work-is-good general idea tackles also romance, flirtation, marriage and women's independence.

 

Whether it'll be received as a charming lesson or an eye-rolling inducing morality tale would be up to the reader, I guess. I wavered in times, but I have to admit I like Alcott too much to begrudge her some opinionated pushing.

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photo 2018-06-13 13:38

The Guardian is one of my go-to sources for international news; refreshingly, they've so far refrained from putting up a paywall.  I'd like their content to be able to continue being freely available on the web, but more importantly, I think these days it's more important than ever to support journalists and media organizations that are committed to reliable, in-depth reporting and aren't afraid to call out abuse and corruption.

 

And in (sort of) the same spirit ...

 

This T-shirt is a treasured gift from a Canadian penfriend, on the occasion of my first visit to Canada 30+ years ago.  In light of recent events, I decided it was time to bring it out again ... (miraculously, I can even wear it still, which has a lot to do with my friend's wise decision to opt for "too large" rather than "too small").

 

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reading.

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text 2018-06-12 13:59
First Indie Book For Children
One Century friendship - Little Bean Seeds

 

 

I am a non-native English speaker living in Hong Kong. One day in 2017 when I cleared my bookshelf, I found a book I wrote when I was in secondary school in 2002. I want to do something to remark that moment, hence as a challenge and a gift for myself, I try to rewrite the story again and plan to share it with others.  

 

I hope the readers who read my book can also take the courage to step out from their comfort zone.  If a non-native English speaker can also finish an English book, then you can also achieve something that you think it is impossible. Just depends on whether you give yourself a chance to explore. 

 

 

STORY SYNOPSIS:

 

The story is about 4 children, Helen, Mark, Yasmin, and Shelly, go to a summer camp and meet a boy who lives more than one century. It seems the children join the summer camp coincidently, but what if the meeting is designated to happen. A wooden brass box is a key to answer what will happen to the 4 children.

 

My book has been enrolled in Amazon KDP select, hence the book is included in "Kindle Unlimited" and " Kindle Owners' Lending Library. Hence if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Owners' Lending Library" programs, you can find my book. 

 

If you are interested in the story and want to get an advanced copy, please leave me your contact. I will try to get back to you in person. 

 

I am willing to accept both positive and negative reviews and you are under no obligation to write a review. If you enjoy reading the book and willing to provide a review on Amazon or in any of your social media, please let me know before you post a review. 

 

 

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