The Road to Little Dribbling … a review

I was very fortunate to see Bill Bryson in person at a live interview about a year ago. Believe it or not, it was at a Microsoft conference! Anyway, it was his casual wit and his obvious intelligence that made me miss his Notes from a Small Island and I decided to pick up its sequel. That was about 5 months ago.

This book is about the more detailed journeys that Bryson undertakes, to the most quirky offbeat places on mainland Britain. Most of it is set in England (about 95%) which to me is a bit of a disappointment, because I’ve never lived in England and its quirks and cultural connotations are slightly lost on me. However, I could not help but snort on planes and trains as Bryson’s extremely sardonic style of writing struck again. His observations are hilarious, especially the one about the Microsoft Windows Updates (yes, he even writes about that sort of thing!) and the gag about the John Lewis shopping experience.

I would very much recommend this book in fits and bursts, it is not meant to be read in one sitting. Rather, if you have ever been to any of the places mentioned in the book, you must revisit them with book in hand! Now that would be a laugh. It was a bit monotonous in parts for me and I would have loved to read a bit more about Scotland in there too. But hey, for the most part, I enjoyed it.

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The Girl who Takes an Eye for an Eye … a review

This book is the latest in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium) series. Of course, since the original author died suddenly, the farnchise has been picked up by David Lagercrantz. And I have to say, I am impressed by how well the new author has retained the ferocity and charm of the main protagonists Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. The storyline continues on from the previous book, and picks up with Salander’s latest circumstances in a women’s high security prison in Sweden.

Readers will come to love the old familiarity of well known characters. As Blomkvist continues to get involved, sometimes willingly, in Salander’s troubles, the plot thickens. This time, it is complete with the involvement of two other storylines, that eventually merge as Salander uncovers more horrific truths about her past.

The series is so well-written, I have always said, that when I finally visit Sweden, I will be sure to look over my shoulder nervously, as if crime awaits at every step. For now though, I have to content myself with nordic noir. I must add that now, I also see Lisbeth as Rooney Mara in my head, although Blomkvist isn’t quite Daniel Craig. Have you watched the movie? Have you read this series? I do recommend both, if you are a fan of fast-paced thrillers.

Impossible Depths … a review

Last day of the year, last review for 2017. Impossible Depths is the second book in the Silver Lake series, following Stronger Within. This book continues on with the story of artist Lori and her now fiance Jake, the rock star. I lingered over this book for months as I was reading it off and on, amidst other books. Also, it was nice and familiar to dip into this one as I felt I knew Lori and Jake like friends.

Lori and Jake are newly engaged and very much in love. The band is doing well and both are happy in their jobs. This is one thing I love about this series, it shows characters doing actual work and spending real time doing real things, which is sometimes missing from romance novels. But despite all the success and love, tragedy lurks just around the corner. With plans being derailed completely and many hearts broken, this books packs in an emotional punch.

However, one of the things that annoyed me is how Jake calls Lori ‘lil’ lady’. Something about it ticks me off, but that is a personal thing. Overall. McCallum is a more mature writer in this book and the balance between the storylines and the sub-plots is great. I really enjoyed this one and look forward to reading the third book in the series.

Thank you all for reading in 2017. Hope you all have some downtime and the company of family and friends during this festive season. See you all in 2018 for some more books, reviews and recommendations! Happy New Year 🙂

The Girlfriend … a review

It seems to me like after the success of Gone Girl followed by The Girl on the Train, psychological thrillers are everywhere. Not a bad thing, I say, I have read a few this year and for the most part, really enjoyed them. In particular, I See You was particularly good. On a short trip, I picked up this one, which is about a mother’s relationship with his son girlfriend, who she doesn’t really approve of, but cannot quite put her finger on why, save for a mother’s intuition.

The plot is quite straightforward, and it preys on the stereotypical weaknesses of a mother – the inability to see any other woman take centre stage in her son’s life. The writing is goo, and Frances does a good jobs of setting up the characters backstories – I enjoyed that. However, I wouldn’t really call this book a psy thriller because it was a bit too predictable. It made me root for the good guy (woman) and it was quite evident who was being played. As the plot progressed, I knew what was going to happen and there were only a couple of surprises on the way.

As a passing read, this is okay. I also got it very cheap on the Kindle because I had a discount code. But if paying full price, I would probably give this one a miss for now. Having said that, the ratings on Goodreads are on the higher side, so my caveat is that it may have just been me!

And Then I’m Gone … a review

I started reading some of Matt Freese’s work a few years ago and so I jumped at the chance to read his latest – a memoir and a sort-of-sequel. I enjoy reading memoirs because I like peoples’ personal stories, there is so much more to each one of us than what is evident on the surface.

So it is with Matt. At 76 and getting on a bit now, he worries about the usual stuff, health, running out of time to do things, reconciling with his estranged child. What runs through the entire book, however, is a deep need to understand his emotions and using a mix of logic, history and philosophy. I enjoyed the interludes where he references the great words of Krishnamurthi. It continues to surprise me that it is hard to find reviewers who will review Holocaust literature. I believe it requires a special type of spineless to shy away from the horrors of history. How will we move forward as a species if we do not learn from our past collectively?

It is nice to be taken through a long life, but through its most salient parts – I still find it hard to compute what a long life holds – so many heartbreaks and smiles, tears and love, distances and horizons. And of course, dreams. Freese brings them out beautifully through his words, as in his previous works (here, here, and here). At times, the prose is a bit halting in this one, but it all lends itself well to this short work that hold the substance of a tome.

I recommend this book, especially as this time of the year is a wonderful time for reflection and looking back. To say the least, Matt is ‘felt’. It is available here.

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!

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?