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 IslandĀ 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.

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 šŸ™‚

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’reĀ  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.

Twenty Four Shadows … a review

A very long time ago (over ten years now), I read ‘Tell Me Your Dreams’ by Sidney Sheldon. It is based on DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) previously also known as MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder).Ā At the time, it blew my mind. It is still a book I recommend to folks. Since Tanya’s marketeer got in touch about her latest work, I have been engrossed in her latest novel based on DID.

Like her previous novels, Leave of AbsenceĀ and My Life in a Nutshell, Peterson takes up a cause of sorts and through fiction, brings it to life in both an educated and poignant way. While Sheldon is a writer writing about mental illness, Peterson is a mental illness counsellor writing about it. It makes a difference. Instead of a fast paced thriller with strange twists and turns, in Twenty Four Shadows we see the simple and tight-knit world of Isaac Bittman fall to pieces slowly as he comes to terms with his illness.Ā There is no excitement, just the terrible reality of friends and loved ones learning to deal with what is most peoples’ unthinkable. They watch Isaac slip away, change, become angry, sad, upset, and violent and remain helpless.

With every mental illness patient also comes their carer, the person, or people, whose lives are ruined in hanging on with the people they care about, and whose illnesses become their own. The story of Isaac’s wife Reese is also beautifully brought out as she struggles with her own needs and wants along with those of their child Dominic’s.Ā The family’s dynamics are brought to life in a masterful way. And we feel as though we are part family as we get on the long and painful road to recovery with the Bittmans.

Peterson writes a well-spun tale, one that brings out the vulnerability of the patients, the perseverance of their carers, andĀ the reactions of society. Having suffered from PTSD herself and spent time in therapy, she has been on both sides of the table, a certified counselor. It shows.Ā I would recommend it as a great book to pick up if you are interested in the themes of DID, parenting, or inspirational reads.

Girl on the Train … a review

A while ago, I came across a list that had names of books people who liked ‘Gone Girl’ might enjoy. I really enjoyed that book so this blurb caught my eye. I then picked it up at the airport in the summer this year at 4 am when I had a 4 hour wait, perfect. It was only when I saw the cover that I realised that the movie was about to come out this year as well.

Now, this book was really good to kill those four hrs and some time on the flight as well. It is fast paced, suitably written, and the plot is quite tight. I was, however, slightly disappointed at the end. Not because I had guessed anything by the way, but just the way the entire sequence of events unfolded. If you have seen the movie, you know the plot already, but I will not give away spoilers here.

My favourite part of the story line was the way the unreliable narrator theme was handles. It has been a while since I read a book which really made me uncomfortable as I just couldn’t trust what the narrator (in this case, the protagonist) was telling me. So definitely worth a read, also a pretty good movie, faithful to the book too, so also recommended.

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All … a review

Remember, a few years ago, the world was taken by storm by the debut novel of Swedish author Jonas Jonasson, called The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared? Well, since then, I haven’t read any comedy I don’t think. After all, the world has been rather busy with psychological thrillers like Gone Girl etc. Anyway, I digress. I missed Jonasson’s scond book about the girl and the King of Sweden, but this one, I picked up recently.

Now, this book, in similar fashion, is the totally random story of a receptionist at a hotel, a hitman who ends up at the hotel, and a priest who doesn’t believe in God. I know! It is a great book that follows a now familiar structure of loose threads, weaving and interweaving beautifully until they all tie up nicely. Jonasson is a great author because I feel that his stories are like life – you know how you sometimes look back and life makes no sense at all,like that!

However, I do have to say that this book didn’t make me laugh as much as the 100-year-old man. Maybe that book had just set the bar too high for me, as it might be the one humourous book I have actually enjoyed a lot! Having said that, this book is still a great read and an especially good length for a good travel read if you are looking for a change from the usual crime thriller.

A Thousand Acres … a review

I read this book by Jane Smiley for three reasons. It came recommended by my friend Liz, who knows my style well. I also had to read something for the April Motif Challenge, which wasĀ Read a book that has won recognition or a literary award’, which this book has. It won the 1992 Putlizer. And the final reason was that I hadn’t read anything set in America for a while. And I was thoroughly impressed!

This books spans the lives of three sisters of the Cook family. Their father,Ā Larry Cook, is an ageing farmer who decides to incorporate his farm, handing complete and joint ownership to his three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline. When the youngest daughter objects, she is removed from the agreement. I loved this part of the novel, where this event sets off a chain of long lost dark truths and forgotten lies. As a family, their true dysfunctionality comes to light. There is some very dark bits to be unearthed as well, which I wont speak of here because that would spoil it for you if you wanted to read it. There is also a subplot around the eldest daughter Ginny and herĀ troubled marriageĀ andĀ difficulties in bearing a child.

What I was interested to know was that this is a modern day retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Now, to be honest, I think I read that play over ten years ago and I cannot remember anything. But this book has meant that I will have to go an reread that again, now. So while I go and do that, you be sure to pick this one up.

The Secret Life of Bees … a review

What a book! What a tremendous piece of literature that I had not come across until now. I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough, if you haven’t read it, you must do.

Set in 1960s South Carolina, this book is the coming of age story of 14 year old Lily Owens. She is white and her nanny of sorts, Rosaleen is black. When the latter gets into trouble for being vocal about black peoples’ rights and ends up in jail, Lily decides to do the inevitable – leave her abusive father T Ray and escape with Rosaleen. The only place that they know to go to is to August Boatwright’s Ā honey bee farm. This is from the only semblance of Lily’s mother’s life she has, a honey jar label with a black Mother Mary on it.

The honey farm takes these fugitives in and so begins Lily’s journey of self-awareness, love, honey harvesting, religion, and lessons of people reading. The greater part of the book shows the entwining of Lily and Rosaleen’s life with those of the Boatwright sisters – May, June, August. There are many instances of racism but none of them are as horrible as, say, The Bluest Eye. Rather, the distinction between white and black is presented through Lily’s eyes and is a poignant reminder of the differences that are made by man.

The book also has a happy ending. There are times when I thought that once the entire truth about why Lily’s mother was in Tiburon would come out, they would both be maybe sent back to the police or even worse, back to the father. And after all, the father was looking for his daughter in anger. But the book brings a lovely resolution at the end. So for a tender account of love and life and colour, this is one of the most uplifting books I have read. Must read!

Cell … a review

Robin Cook has been my go to man for fast-paced, enjoyable, thrilling medical novels. For the last 15 years! Yes, you read that right… I read my first Cook when I was ten, and I have never looked back. I’ve read all 33 of them… he’s a great writer. That said, he has had his moments. Some books, like Abduction, were kind of not-that-great. But the Jack and Laurie series of books were stellar. And with his latest offering, George Wilson from LA is now my favourite doctor! In keeping with his uusualstyle of making medical ‘problems’ absolutely believable, in this book, he deals with the subject of technology. Cell in this book refers to Cellphones, which have an app called iDoc, replacing the need for traditional doctors. Of course, these things are being debated upon as we speak but in this book, as people start dropping like flies around Wilson, Cook presents a very chilling perspective.
How much technology is good? How much can we handle before it takes over our lives? these questions are important enough for grocery shopping, or the education of kids, or 3D printers and guns, but when it comes to the evolution of modern medicine, this question hits home deep. When the code behind an app starts developing ‘problems’, their developers are the decision makers for the rights vs the money. And the systems and political machinery that backs ventures such as these is also very ‘Big Brother’-esque.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked how the app seems like such a natural progression of our lives and then you see why real doctors are needed, why you cannot trust computers, and why, George loses his fiancee, his neighbour, a colleague, and a friend one after another. It is my kind of book, it raises my kind of issues, and it pulls it off with the fine kind of writing that Cook never fails to deliver. Must read!

The Lewis Man … a review

I read this book a while ago, just after the first book.Ā This is the second book of The Lewis Trilogy, where ex Detective Inspector Finlay Macleod has now moved back to the womb, back to his native village of Crobost on the Isle of Lewis, one of the remotest of islands in the Outer Hebrides. I was going to write a little intro to the fact that there is so much that is part of this book apart from the discovery of a murdered man in a peat bog, but The Scotsman did it better, and I quote:

ā€œlike all the best crime fiction its interest is not restricted to the investigation.
Itā€™s about the weight of the past, failed relationships, lives gone wrong and the ill-treatment of children. It may also be called a hymn in praise of the beauties of the islands and the miseries of their weather. There is a great deal of description of landscape and the elements, too much perhaps for some tastes, but you can always skim these paragraphs.ā€

However, I would judge you if you skimmed ā€˜thoseā€™ paragraphs. Scottish islands, most beautiful landscapes in the world. Anyway, the only DNA that matches that of the corpseā€™s turns out to be Tormod MacDonaldā€™s, who turns out to be Marsailiā€™s father, who has advanced dementia. Marsaili, of course, is Finā€™s love interest. In trying to prod through an ailing old manā€™s foggy memories, Fin finds out about the history of the island and its people. More and more people are intertwines in so many ways, like a giant spider web. And Fin finds himself right at the centre of it.
I really liked the character of George Dunn, who is on the island police force and helps Fin gather evidence even though it is against the law to give away information. It adds and element of dry humour to the book, very nicely done. Finā€™s relationship with Marsaili and his new found son Fionnlagh also goes through some radical changes. More family is discovered and harder choices are made. Some very potent observations about organised religion as well there.
This book is just right as the second of a trilogy. The action is enough to bring some resolutions from the first book, but enough loose ends added as well so you have to have to read the last book! Like I said before, if you are into crime thrillers, tartan noir, handsome messed-up men, Scottish islands, go for it!