A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic NovelA Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think that this will be the last graphic novel I ever read. I was initially excited by the sheer size of this novel – 392 pages. Surely I would get a good opinion from this I thought. Surely this would change my opinion to a more positive light? Sadly I was wrong.

The artwork is too simplistic and the colour palette of black, white and blue simply didn’t allow the full wonder of this story to be revealed.

Meg came out looking angry in almost every cell. Charles-Wallace is not convincing and seriously, who cares about the other characters? See, right >there< is where the problem is. The other characters didn’t fair so well in this retelling and if you don’t care for the characters, why bother reading the book?

A lot of the dialogue remains true to the original but the artwork didn’t hold up its end of the bargain to tell the story. Expressions look the same no matter what they are proposed. The great battle between Meg and IT for the heart of Charles-Wallace was told in 11 cells; not much for a great battle at all. In all fairness, the Tesseract was succinctly show in two cells on page 139.

It just didn’t do it for me I’m afraid. Graphic novels are nothing more than glorified comic books and I wont be reading any more.

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The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in 1920’s, Tom is the survivor of World War One and wants nothing more than to have the calm order of being a lighthouse keeper as a job in the remote wilderness of the Australian countryside. He meets Isabel and her open and lively spirit wriggles its way into his heart and after a strange courtship they are married.

Isabel and Tom have suffered yet another devastating loss of an unborn child and Isabel is pushed beyond her coping abilities. A small boat lands on their island home of Janus Rock in the Indian Ocean with a dead man and a new born baby on-board. Then the decision of a lifetime is made; to keep the baby or not.

This book is not so unfathomable as one might first imagine. After years of infertility I too would wish that I could find an abandoned baby, so often reported on television news, so I could claim it as my own. One can only imagine what living in such isolation did to a grief stricken Isabel as she dealt with miscarriages and still births, desperate for a child of her own.

This is a novel about moral choices and at its core is the ability to make you care for characters that due to misplaced faith, choose to believe that a baby has been supernaturally given to them rather than follow the moral decision to send the child back to the mainland. It was never a malicious decision to keep the baby, just one that came from the depths of despair.

One cant help but question Tom’s love and loyalty to Isabel in revealing the truth of his daughter and its easy to understand in no uncertain terms the morality of guilt he displayed in contacting the birth mother, thus destroying his wife’s life. A classic six of one, half dozen of the other.

There is only one clear plotline, and there are not a cast of thousands in supporting roles. But the story is dealt with honestly, at times painfully and makes you question the rights of a child. Sadly its still a situation that happens today when surrogacy goes wrong.

This is a complex, tender story. Wonderful. Four and a half stars really.

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Vinegar Girl

Vinegar GirlVinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

OK. before we go any further, lets just say this is not the book for a feminist to read and take seriously. And the fact it is labelled fiction – contemporary women is just laughable.

Anne Tyler doesn’t have much to work with considering the original is The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, but she creates a slightly sit-com storyline of Kate Battista being ask to marry her fathers lab assistant so he can get a green card and stay in the country, where he will continue to work on something that is ultimately for the good of humanity. In real life its known as fraud and you can be legally charged for it as a crime.

There is nothing particularly likeable about any of the characters. Kate comes across as a rather rude and socially stupid woman, her younger sister Bunny is a self-entitled, boy hungry teenager, Dr. Battista is the kind of scientist character that makes you sigh in exasperation because he is of overly muddle headed and Pytor is the inordinately eager foreign groom to be.

This is a story that will make you want to reach for the primary work and realise that things are very different in 1590 when it was originally written. It will help with the urge to roll the eyes and snort in frustration.

Its just OK. Not one I would exhort you to read.

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The Liar

The LiarThe Liar by Nora Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story begins with Shelby Foxworth trying to come to terms with learning that her recently deceased husband had left her in a great deal of debt. And within a matter of days she learns that he never really existed at all.

Shelby is a fighter and refuses to allow all this to keep her down; she has a three year old daughter to provide for after all. She sells up everything she can and heads back to the safety and security of her hometown and her family. But a book of 501 pages cant possibly run all that smoothly can it?

This plotline isn’t a new one by any stretch of the imagination, but in the hands of Nora Roberts it is done well enough that it is an enjoyable couple of hours to stifle reality. I say that despite knowing the major plot twist within a third of the book, so for once I wasn’t taken by surprise.

Its a little too easy for Shelby to dig her way out of millions of dollars of debt and it was far too simple for her to up sticks and go back to the well healed pockets of her perfect parents, land a job in her Granny’s day spa and land in the arms of the cute Yankee boy who is new in town. If only disaster could be so easily undone in real life. But in the end, Nora Roberts is my guilty pleasure and I love loosing myself in one of her novels. You don’t read her for realism but for escapism.

And as an escape, this was pretty good.

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Salt to the Sea

Salt to the SeaSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a glorious book in that it is easy and engaging, illuminating and despite tragedy, ends with hope.

Everyone knows what happened April 14th and 15th 1912. Everyone has heard about the sinking of the Titanic, but it seems that January 30th, 1945 is a date with no power of recall in the collective memory. Salt to the Sea is about the greatest tragedy in Maritime history that you’ve never heard of. And inside the covers of this book, an imagined history is played out in a vivid manner.

Told in short, snappy chapters from four teenagers points of view, this story reveals the little talked about retreat of the German people as the Russians advanced through Poland towards Berlin in the dying days of the Third Reich. It tells the story of a group of desperate refugees fleeing for their lives and never really knowing who they can trust, even amongst themselves.

The main characters are:

Joana – Lithuanian – guilty
Florian – Prussian – betrayed
Emilia – Polish – victim
Alfred – German – shirker

Far from being confusing, the four storylines weave together, giving some parts of the story in differing points of view, and moving the story forward in each their own way. There are a cast of supporting characters who are a vital part of the story. You will fall in love with the shoe maker. There are no happily ever afters for everyone. But with realistic detail Sepetys reveals the desperation of people fleeing in terror of the oncoming Russians who had a fierce some reputation.

Ten thousand people, possibly five thousand of them children were crammed onto the “Wilhelm Gustloff,” a leisure vessel made for one thousand, to take people through the Baltic sea to the so called safety of Germany in Operation Hannibal.

Fascinating and touching, this book doesn’t go into lengthy descriptions of the ship sinking, rather its focus is squarely on the people it has introduced us to.

A great read and a new insight into history.

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like that you can open a block of paper and cardboard with a spine and be whisked away to another time and another place. I like that you can step into some else’s experience and gain another point of view. Life seems so different in the past. Behaviours and attitudes change and books take you back to experience the mistakes so we might not make them again.

Henry is Chinese and Keiko is Japanese and they live in Seattle during World War Two. It is the time when racism and blind patriotism had overtake decency and respect. Henry and Keiko are the only ‘coloured’ children at an all white school on a kind of scholarship and this is where the first buds of attraction begin to grow. But the internment of people of Japanese descent was taking place because they were potential spies for the Enemy and because of such, two lives were altered forever. Henry must decide if his allegiance is to his families traditions or to his heart and what he believes is right or wrong.

This novel flows between two periods of time; the 1940’s during the war and 1986 when Henry is a man old enough to have a college aged son. We are told the story from Henry’s point of view and from his experiences. Its a love story and a coming of age story of how a single person can stand against a great evil and make a difference in the lives of even just a few.

This book is lovely. Easily read, it is gentle and sweet whilst never falling into fake sentimentality. And its always a good thing for current generations to learn from generations past. The ending is full of hope which keeps the book from being too authoritarian.

Definitely worth the read.

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Star Gazing

Star GazingStar Gazing by Linda Gillard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is an excellent example of something you can read to expand your view of characters with some diversity as the main protagonist is a blind woman.

This book is told in a three part narrative. We read from Marianne (the blind character), Louisa (her sister) and then a strange third person voice that does take some getting used to.

Marianne has LCA (Lebers Congential Amourosis) which is a genetic type of blindness. She was made a widow in her 20’s and has remained as such for almost 20 years. In passing she meets Keir Harvey and a strange attraction between the two is kindled. The challenge of this romance is that Marianne’s dead husband Harvey died horrifically in an oil rig disaster and Keir Harvey is an oil man out and about on oil rigs and in the middle of no-where, for months at a time, searching for oil. They have intense weeks together and then are separated for months at a time. Marianne isn’t a needy girl by any stretch of the imagination but is haunted by the accident that killed her husband.

Star Gazing is a comfortable plot; I mean there isn’t anything unusual about it. Boy meets girl, boy and girl have an issue or two to work out, boy gets girl forever. Lovely. What really makes this book stand out is the way Keir uses words to woo Marianne. She is constantly asking him to describe things to her in ways she can understand and he uses musical terms and pieces to illustrate explanations. Its stunning to visualise things in such a different way.

Star Gazing is a strong book in that it never allows you to forget that Marianne is blind but it never does it in a cloying manner. The sister Louisa also featured strongly in this novel with a budding romance of her own that looks at the ‘rules’ of age differences in a romantic relationship. It is a sweetness all of its own.

Its two romances for the price of one and is a thoroughly acceptable book. I recommend it.

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