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!

Advertisements

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 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.