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Search tags: Literary-Fiction
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review 2019-01-22 22:31
Book Review of The Letter (The Chateau series Book 1) by Emma Sharp
The Letter - Emma Sharp

On yet another wet morning in Yorkshire, Laura, a newly qualified nurse, orphaned at a young age and brought up by her late grandma, is struggling financially and emotionally since the death of her beloved gran. That is, until one morning, when, out of the blue she receives a mysterious letter. With life changing decisions to be made, will Laura take up the challenge of starting a new life in the French sunshine? 
Join her on the rollercoaster adventure, as she experiences highs and lows, opens new doors, makes new friends; and enemies along the way. Who can she trust in this unfamiliar country with the secrets that she uncovers? And, how is she going to deal with her belligerent, new neighbour?
So much more than a rags to riches story.

 

Review 4*

 

The Letter is the first in The Chateau series written by a debut author. I really enjoyed it!

 

Laura Mackley is a character I struggled to connect with at first, but as I read further into the story, she grew on me. By the end of the book, I liked her, even though some of her internal monologues made me want to roll my eyes or slap her silly. She is a nurse in England, who receives a letter that changes her life. Inheriting a chateau in France, she finds herself facing many challenges and decisions. As she delves deeper into the history surrounding her inheritance, Laura uncovers a family history previously unknown to her. Will she find her answers?

 

I don't usually read a lot of women's fiction. However, as I am trying to broaden my reading horizons, after reading the synopsis, I decided to give this book a try.

 

This story is told through the eyes of Laura. There are a few interesting characters in this book. Xavier is a French farmer, and neighbour to Laura. He comes across as intense and broody. Alice is his elderly mother, who has had a recent hospital stay and required care. Then there is Gus, Xavier's young son. There are a few more characters that make an appearance, which gives the story a nice realistic feel. There's even a piano playing ghost!

 

I started reading this story but wasn't instantly sucked in. I found it easy to put this book down, do something else, then pick it back up. This doesn't mean that I wasn't enjoying the story. As I said above, my problem lay in liking (or in this case, disliking) the main character. As I read more of the story, I became intrigued with the history of the chateau and Laura's family connection to it. There is a mystery hidden within the pages of this book, but as this is the first book in a series, some mystery remains towards the end. Xavier and Laura seem to have some chemistry, but I'm unsure if it's love or hate. Laura certainly emotes hate, but Xavier is an unknown quantity. It will be interesting to see how their relationship develops.

 

The author describes the scenes quite well, and this made it easy for me to picture in my mind's eye. Some dialogue feels a little forced, but for the most part, makes the characters come alive. There are a few twists thrown in, and the one near the end completely surprised me. I definitely didn't see that scene coming! Although the story doesn't end in a climatic cliffhanger, it does end on a small one. The author has added a teaser for the second book to tempt the reader into continuing with the series. I will be doing so in the future.

 

Emma Sharp is a debut author who has written an intriguing story. Her writing is not particularly fast-paced, but it is enough for me to keep turning pages. The story flows well, which makes it more enjoyable too.

 

Although there are no scenes of violence or any of a sexual nature, I do not recommend this book to younger readers, as I feel they may struggle with it. I do, however, recommend this book to readers of women's fiction, literary humour and romance. - Lynn Worton

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review 2019-01-20 18:01
US AGAINST YOU by Fredrik Backman
Us Against You - Fredrik Backman
What a sequel!  It is just as intense and good as Beartown.  Us Against You picks up after Beartown ends with the summer before the next hockey season.  We find out what happens to the characters from Beartown.  The rivalry between Beartown and Hed grows as the first game approaches.  Leaders emerge while those who want to be leaders don't have the necessary qualities to become leaders.  One politician gets very involved in the hockey club and plays everyone against the other.  We see others with new eyes and we meet new members of the community. 
 
I loved this series.  I would like to see these people in 10 years time and see what happened to them.  I know I kept saying not this one or that one when it looked as if something bad was going to happen.  Not every life is successful.  Some lose what they worked so hard for.  Some find acceptance while others find more alienation.  There was a lot of truth in this book.  Sune was right when he said, "We are the community."  Never were truer words spoken.  Everything that happens, every word spoken, every thought good or bad is in our communities and it is what we foster in words and action that determine what the community is.  Us Against You is a mirror that reflects back what we all are.  Excellent!
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review 2018-11-26 02:00
Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

When Saeed and Nadia finally had coffee together in the cafeteria, which happened the following week, after the very next session of their class, Saaed asked her about her conservative and virtually all-concealing black rode.

"If you don't pray," he said, lowering his voice, "why do you wear it?"

They were sitting at a table for two by a window, overlooking snarled traffic on the street below. Their phones rested screen-down between them, like the weapons of desperados at parley.

She smiled. Took a sip. And spoke, the lower half of her face obscured by her cup.

"So men don't fuck with me," she said.

 

The quote above appears at the end of Chapter One, and sums up the essence of what I like about the novel. It does equally well as an example of what turns me off as well.

 

I love that the setting and characters give me a unique and interesting perspective on the world, one which I seldom have access to. They surprised me, and confronted me with assumptions and prejudices that I wasn't aware I harbored, even considering myself fairly open-minded and educated about the world. In this way, Exit West demonstrates to me that there simply aren't enough diverse voices from a Middle Eastern lens that are making it into the mainstream consciousness, leading to a limited set of narratives from which we draw our judgments and conclusions about its culture and diaspora. I appreciate that this novel expands that perspective. Further, the characters are likeable and I immediately sympathized with their position, foibles, and desires.

 

With such strengths, it might seem odd that I am giving a rating of 3/5 stars. The fatal flow in the novel is this: despite the unique perspective and sympathetic characters, it was hard for me to feel engaged with the story itself. The tone, while sometimes genuinely funny and surprising, often just comes off as smug and cheeky to me. The style is literary and detached; even violent deaths are described matter-of-factly, and it feels like it takes a very long time for things to happen. Given the violence and suffering of the backdrop of civil war, I found myself craving something more direct, clear, and raw to bring it home emotionally.

 

That, or perhaps I'm just not literary enough to appreciate the excellently crafted prose when the plot feels understated and beneath the surface... I'm no pulp reader -- lack of character depth and hacked-together stocked plots do really annoy me. I do want to think when I read, but in the sense that I want to learn something new, maybe have my mind blown, and perhaps be inspired. I don't want to be craving more connection while applauding politely, as artisan turns of phrase pirouette on by.

 

Overall, I'm glad this novel exists, and I don't think I wasted my time reading it... but you won't find me singing it's praises or strongly recommending it to friends.

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review 2018-10-30 18:28
The Gad Nail by Anthony Spaeth
The Gad Nail - Anthony Spaeth

I had the great pleasure to listen to Howl of the Lambergoon and was very happy to see a sequel to the series (Gad the Zig). While this is the second book, it stands on its own. As with Book 1, the story captures the fanciful and instantly pulled me in. I own both the audiobook and the paperbook, so this review is for both formats.

A potter lives a lonely life on the Hebrides so he uses a bit of magic to craft a kid (who gets a robin’s nest for a cap and an iron nail for a heart). Gad is then sent on his first quest – to find a meal. The potter warns him seriously to stay out the Fendrees woods.

And we can all see where Gad will have to venture for one reason or another. There’s a turtle involved and faeries! Gad wasn’t sure he would be able to make it out alive! Thankfully, more than one comes to his aid and the faerie queen of Fendrees woods takes their pleas into consideration.

While the plot is straight forward, it is eloquently told. The cadence and word choice are just as well used as the imagery. I would recommend this for adults and kids as there’s enough here to capture the heart of any age. 5/5 stars.

The illustrations are beautifully done, as with Book 1, even with the change in illustrators. The cover illustration didn’t pull me in as much as Book 1 simply because it has so much pink. I can clearly see the artistry in the cover despite the pink and I knew the story would be worthy. The interior illustrations use the full palette and don’t rely heavily on pink. Once again, I love that there’s a fanciful map at the beginning. The illustrations near the end of the tale, when kids are encouraged to hunt out their own magical woods, were my favorites. It’s great that kids of different walks of life are included, such as the kid in the wheelchair. 5/5 stars.

Narration: Derek Murray gives a superb performance. He nails the rhythm perfectly. He has distinct voices for all the characters and his faerie queen voice is feminine. Murray’s Scottish accent adds to the book since it’s set in the Hebrides. 5/5 stars.

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review 2018-10-30 18:11
Howl of the Lambergoon by Anthony Spaeth
Howl of the Lambergoon - Anthony Spaeth

I had the pleasure to review the audiobook for Audio Book Reviewer and you can catch my review over there. Derek Murray gives a marvelous performance for the narration of the audiobook. Here is an additional review of the paper version.

This story is just as enchanting the second time through and just a bit more engrossing with all of these luscious illustrations. The characters come to life so quickly and it was easy to put myself in their shoes. The tale holds adventure, mystery, and a quest of sorts. The physical book has a simple but well done map to go along with the story, which is set in the Hebrides. A touch of history and myth curl their way throughout this engaging story. I love Aud’s hairstyle in the illustrations and the lambergoon is a treat to behold!

Told in rhyme, it’s easy to fall into the near sing-song pacing. The charm continues to grow with each passing page. I can see how kids would be easily caught up in this story with all the fun, silly words (like lambergoon). In fact, I bought a copy for my niece. At this rate, she’ll be reading before she’s out of the womb!

This is easily one of my favorite tales of the year, despite most of my reading being dark fantasy, epic scifi, and murder mystery. 6/5 stars.

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