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text 2018-05-19 17:16
"How To Be Brave" by Louise Beech - DNF - abandoned at 15% - buying error on my part
How To Be Brave - Louise Beech

I only listened to ninety minutes of an eleven-hour book so I'm not giving a star rating but I'm certain this book is not for me.

 

I liked the story idea - nine-year-old-girl dramatically passes out and is diagnosed as having Type 1 diabetes, her mother has to cope with the consequences alone except for the perhaps ghostly intervention from a dead but still inspirational great-grandfather.

 

I feel bad about not liking this book beause is semi-autobiographical and I can feel the authenticity of the experience but that's not enough. I found the pace slow, it's a little over-written while still managing to be slightly dull. Where I'd hoped for passion, I found sentiment that verges on Hallmark.

 

I think I may not be nice enough for this book. I reacted badly to its wholesomeness.

 

Others may value this book for its uplifting message and the sincerity of the author and the love that obviously went into it, but I'm moving on.

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text 2018-05-08 21:50
Reading progress update: I've read 64%.
The Cleaner of Chartres - Salley Vickers

I'm actually enjoying this more than I expected to, which is fabulous. This book, and many like it on my reading list, are my effort to break out of my YA/Fantasy prison that I've built for myself. I keep taking suggestions from other readers on books that they love, and giving them a shot. So far I'm happy with this one!

 

Does anyone have any other recommendations of good Historical Fiction? I'd like to stay away from anything that deals with war time, or too much drama, since I'm still working my way out of a funk. I'll happily take anything you throw my way though!

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review 2018-05-02 22:51
The Glass Spare by Lauren Destefano
The Glass Spare - Lauren DeStefano

Well, I liked this! A lot, in fact. I don't know if it's because I went in with barely any expectations, or if I'm just in the mood for this kind of book, but I can tell you that I totally enjoyed this whole story. Kudos to Destefano, seriously. I've been in a weird place with YA Fantasy lately and I feel like I'm just always setting myself up to dislike books. Hahaha. This one proved me beautifully wrong.

 

Cliffhanger ending was expected, but I definitely want the next book. 

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text 2018-04-27 10:35
Reading progress update: I've read 6%. - I broke my "read only my TBR" rule for this one
 An Argumentation of Historians: The Chronicles of St. Mary's - Jodi Taylor,Zara Ramm

I'd resolved to read only from my TBR pile unless something truly exceptional came along.

 

Well, surely the newest volume in The Chronicles Of St Mary's has to count?

 

I pre-ordered it and it's been sitting neglected for nearly two weeks now so I couldn't possibly put it off any further.

 

I've just started and the magic is back, this time featuring a trip, sorry, assignment, to see, sorry, observe, Henry VIII.

 

The last volume "And The Rest Is History" was so traumatising that it left me feeling a bit battered. It seems I was not alone. Jodi Taylor says in her introduction that her publisher's asked her to make this one more upbeat. So why when Max, arrived safely in Henry's England says, " It had been a bad year but it was over now. I could look forward to the future," do I not believe her?

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review 2018-04-26 19:27
"The Trick To Time" by Kit De Waal -Highly Recommended
The Trick To Time - Kit de Waal

I chose"The Trick To Time" by Kit De Waal as one of the six books I wanted to read from the sixteen books on the 2018 Women's Fiction Prize Longlist and I'm delighted that I did as it is one of the best books I've read so far this year. I recommend the audiobook version of "The Trick To Time" as Fiona Shaw's narration is perfect. Hearing the voices of the two Irish Aunts nicknames Pestilence and Famine, I was transported back to listening to my grandmother and her sister who spoke in exactly the same way.

 

I went into the book without reading the publisher's summary and I'm glad I did as it reads like the summary of a different book entirely, suggesting either magical realism or a historical romance.

 

For me, the strength of "The Trick To Time" is that exists purely to tell the story of how the main character, Mona, came to be Mona. The story is told in two parallel timelines: Mona as she reaches her sixtieth birthday, living alone in a seaside town in England, making dolls and providing some mysterious service to some of the women who visit her shop and Mona as a little girl, growing up in Ireland and then moving, in her late teens, to Birmingham to make a new life for herself.

 

The thing that most engaged me about the book was understanding how the little girl playing on the beach, and the young woman going nervously to her first dance in Birmingham, became the calm, strong but sad woman who makes wooden dolls. The parallel timeline structure of the book kept this at the centre of my attention and kept surprising me, not through the use of tricks or crazy plot twists but by how real and honest the changes in Mona seemed. I'm the same age as Mona and when I look back, I also wonder how the boy I was became the man I am. I was there and I yet I understand Mona's journey better than my own.

 

I was delighted to see that the sixty-year-old Mona isn't presented either as an old-woman far along the crone road or a woman still pretending to be twenty. Mona knows herself, she knows what's happened to her, she recognises the compromises and limitations in how she lives now and she has still a strong desire to find a way to live her life.

 

There is a real sense of time passing and perceptions changing while the people themselves remain who they have always truly been as if time simply wears away the bits of themselves that they'd only dressed up in in their youth.

 

This is a deeply empathic book about the nature of grief, the enduring impact of loss and the effect of time on emotions, memory and our own sense of identity.

 

I won't put spoilers in this review so I won't talk about the central trauma of Mona's life, except to say that it made me angry and it made me cry and it filled me with deep admiration for the service that Mona provided to others in later life.

 

Mona is a working-class Irish woman, living as an immigrant in Birmingham at the time of the IRA bombing that unleashed so much pain and hate.  Her ambition is simple: to make a family with the man she loves. By today's standards, they have nothing but they have enough to live independently and dream of a life filled with children who are loved and cared for with: "A roof on the house, food on the table and a coat on the hook".. I recognise those kinds of circumstances and that simple ambition but I rarely see it in books that are nominated for literary prizes. I also recognise the situation of being an immigrant and just trying to make your way. I like the matter-of-fact way this was dealt with: no polemics, no dog-whistle posturing, just an honest personal narrative.

 

The writing is beautiful without being flowery. From the beginning, I understood that there was more going on than I yet knew about and that understanding filled me with pleasant anticipation of a real story worth waiting for. It was a story that caught me by surprise time and again, up to the final chapter, but each surprise made more sense of Mona's life and actions rather than feeling like a magic trick.

 

Although this is Mona's story, the other people in it are more than cyphers. They are people with histories and emotions and opinions of their own and they rarely take the path that convention or cliché would channel them to.

 

For example, Mona's father is a complex and compassionate man. When his still-young wife is dying and Mona, his daughter, is playing on the beach to avoid her mother's illness, he finds her and persuades her to spend time with her mother. He says:
 
"One day, you will want these hours back, my girl. You will wonder how you lost them and you will want to get them back. There's a trick to time. You can make it expand or you can make it contract. Make it shorter or make it longer." 

The gentle, sad truth of this sets the tone for the whole novel.

 

I'll be reading Kit de Waal's back-catalogue and anything else she publishes. I think she's an extraordinary talent.

 

4480If you'd like to know more about her and how she wrote "The Trick To Time", take a look at this Interview with Kit de Waal in "The Guardian" covering:

"The novelist on her Irish heritage, the passing of time and why she’s glad she didn’t start young"

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