Stronger Within … a review

Stronger Within is Coral McCallum’s debut novel, the first book in the Silver Lake series. Set in Delaware, it follows the lives of Lori (a.k.a Mz Hyde) an artist cum investor and Jake, a guitarist in a rock band. A chance meeting occurs and one thing leads to another as an unlikely couple come together.

The author takes her time. The build up of the characters is very slow, it is at life speed. So events happen at a very realistic speed but until an important thread in the background is revealed, I have nothing to go on. So the first third of the book is a bit slow going. But as the pace picks up and we follow the characters’ individual and collective journeys, the plot unravels masterfully.

In particular, I really enjoyed the rock band’s travels. Because they perform across the US as well as overseas, it adds an element of adventure to the novel. There is a great deal of detail in every scene and the writing is very fluid and easily read.

So it ticked a lot of boxes for me. Especially as the nights have started to draw in on this northern burgh ever so much, this book filled quite a few evenings with a big mug of tea – recommended!

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The Sunrise … a review

I picked this book up at a local book swap. It was set in Europe, seemed a good sized travel read, and it’s summer – so if those two boxes are ticked I’m set. What took me by surprise is how moving, beautiful and tangible Victoria Hislop’s writing is.

The book is set in Cyprus in the 1970s. Now, I will admit, before I read this book I knew nothing about Cyprus. But that was just as well, because the backdrop is the social, political and economic climate of the country in the 70s and 80s. In the heart of the action are the couple that owns the fancy hotel on the beach in Famagusta ‘The Sunrise’ and their business manager of sorts. As riots and rivalry break out between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, we read on as families are torn apart, entire cities razed to dust and love crumbles. If you haven’t read anything by Hislop yet, I highly recommend it. And if you have been or are planning to go to Cyprus, then this should be on your must-read list.

The only thing I will say is, this isn’t a light read. It has substance, it is not your typical ‘I can zone out while reading this…’ type of book. So with that word of caution, I will leave you. Have you read anything else by Hislop? Recommendations?

I See You … a review

I got this book on my Kindle as I had an offer code to use. So it cost me very little money, I liked the blurb and started reading. The plot very quickly sucked me in. If you’re  a fan of recent books like Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Sharp Objects etc – you will really enjoy this book.

The premise is simple. The protagonist, on her way home one day on the London Underground, thinks she sees her own blurry photo with a singular website that looks like an adult website in the Classifieds section. She is a woman in her mid-40s, with two kids and lives with them and her partner in a suburban block. All very normal. She becomes more and more anxious as every day it is a different woman, until one day, she sees on the news that one of them is dead. What is happening?

The book is very well-written. So much so, that I was on the Underground a couple of weeks after and felt uneasy thinking about the probability of the crime described. It is very hard to guess who the criminal is, and the plot is sufficiently tight to allow no person to be beyond suspicion. Obviously, there is a broody police officer with their own demons, as always.

Overall, really good travel/summer holiday read.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter … a review

I had heard a lot about this book so when I chanced upon it, I picked it up. It was meant to be a travel read, and it is a good size and weight for that. So if you are going away on holiday this summer and want something interesting, I would recommend this book.

The plot hinges on Dr. David Henry, who lies to his wife and tell her that one of their twins, a daughter, was stillborn. In reality, she had Down’s and he gave her away to the nurse to put in a home. The nurse Caroline, couldn’t bear it however, and decides to raise the child herself. The plot is a bit too iffy. There are too many coincidences and the fact that Mrs Henry is totally obsessed in her grief but manages to mother her son and have a life anyway (however grudgingly) is a bit strange. She also questions her husband surprisingly less in the initial year after her daughter’s death, even though she cannot get past it.

But, but, once you get past all that, and assume the plot is a given, the portrayal of the fragility of relationships is actually brilliant. The slow decay of the Henry marriage, the dysfunctional family unit for Paul – the surviving child, the evolving relationship of Mrs Henry and her sister, the secret between Caroline and Dr Henry, and the struggles of Caroline with her ‘dauhter’ Phoebe are all excellently handled. Life can sometimes be stranger than fiction and the various people in their individual journeys are well-bound by this strange secret – a disabled child.

The treatment of peoples’ past as well is nicely written and you can see how each character’s past shapes their thoughts and behaviour. This is generally always true for good books, but this one is particular was standout. Down’s children as well are very precocious  in some ways and through Phoebe, those sentiments are nicelyconveyed. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I can see why there was a hype about it.

Mad About the Boy … a review

Bridget Jones returns. Need I say more? I genuinely thought that with Bridget getting married and with a baby, things had more-or-less reached a head. And boy, was I wrong? Somehow, in true Bridget fashion, she has managed to land herself in a situation where she is still self-critical, under-confident, single and on the market. Oh, and she got nits!

The fact that I write about Bridget like she’s my friend is testimony to Fielding’s great talent. The character remains relatable, lovable, and totally flawed in a way we all are. And yet, as life goes on and we are all older and none the wiser, there is a certain sense of misplaced maturity even in Jones. Motherhood adds a special extra dimension, and the old friends and the ever charming sleazy ex-boss Daniel bring familiarity.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I had no idea it had come out, I just happened to pick it up from the local book swap shelf. You’re probably wondering about Mark Darcy but I won’t tell you or it will spoil it. But rest assured, it won’t be as you expected and the ending is quite heart-warming too. Enjoy!

The Daylight Gate … a review

I was at Lancaster University last week and spending some time walking around Pendle College and ended up at their very impressive student library. What do I do when that happens? Pick up a book and make a beeline for an empty couch! I picked up this book because I had been to Lancaster Castle the day before and only just found out about the area’s connection to witches!

The book is set in 1612, when James I, a Protestant King, is on the throne. He was James VI of Scotland, of course, the son of Mary Queen of Scots. Apparently, he was obsessed with ridding his realm of twin evils, witchcraft and Catholicism, at any price…

The narrative has an old fashioned writing style, it is not halting though, just different. The local sheriff at Pendle hill interrupts a strange meeting as he suspects it to be a witches’ Sabbat. I won’t tell you how, but even Shakespeare plays a cameo – how cool is that!?

It is a very short read although it looks deceptively thick. It took me a couple of hours and a bit to read, although I was totally engrossed in it. The library was fab and the weather outside was, well, underwhelming, so there.

Jamilia … a review

I first heard about the book Jamilia a long time ago, in context of Kyrgyztan. I cannot remember what it was now… I got my hands on the Telegram copy a few weeks ago. It is only a novella, took me only about an hour and a half to read it. It is a beautiful love story and is the first major novel by Chingiz Aytmatov.

The novel is the story if Jamilia, as told by her brother-in-law Seit, a young Kyrgyz artist. Jamilia’s husband is at the front at war and this books talks of her love of Daniyar, a local cripple. While nothing earth-shattering happens, the book recounts the tender emotions of love and the sense of society very beautifully. The story is backdropped against the collective farming culture which was in its peak in that period.

During the Soviet era, Aitmatov was known as the “intellectual father of the Kyrgyz people” and as the “voice of Central Asia.” Under Stalin, he was a tax collector, a warehouse worker and a machinist, before studying veterinary medicine and literature and eventually becoming the most popular Soviet writer.

I’d recommend the book, and I think free versions are available on the web too.