Harkworth Hall

Harkworth Hall

 

 

1752, England, The North.

And with this minor introduction we are transported to a time when King George the Second was on the throne and the latest on the fashion scene for women were dresses as wide as a doorway and the men of prominence sported those funky white wigs. The book starts off with a minor mystery as to why the birds have all flown away from the coastal area where the heroine lives and gradually winds itself into a fantasy world of smugglers, damsels in distress and a leviathan requiring a specific blood sacrifice. All very odd.

Thankfully it’s only a short book of 164 pages, and the groundwork is clearly laid out for more novels to come, possibly making it a series. But in the end it’s a mess of ideas and genres that doesn’t really make the mark. It starts off as one type of book but then misleads the reader into a weird storyline that it doesn’t sell at all well. The characters are not well crafted, the prose is clunky and in general it’s just a jumble.

Without a doubt, I am not the target audience for this piece of work.

Wilde Like Me

Wilde Like Me

Three Stars

 

Confession time. When news of Louise Pentlands book deal came out into public knowledge it was with trepidation that the book was pre-ordered and then suspicion when it came to reading the book itself. But those fears were unfounded; Pentland has actually written a good novel. One cannot help but feel however, that an awful lot of her own life story is found within the storyline of this book. It is written in the first person and if you are a fan of Pentland on YouTube, you can just hear her voice coming through loud and clear. But it seems apparent that there is no ghost writer at work behind the scenes.

 

Robin Wilde is a single mother of an effervescent five year old Lyla who is trying to figure out her place in life and what she wants to achieve with it. She has been badly treated by the significant other in her life and has been alone for five years. She is a make-up artist assistant working for a very successful make-up artist and finds great fulfilment on what she does. In fact, she would be pretty much all that and a bag of chips if only she had some self-confidence. She endures the dating scene that seems to encompass dating apps on the phone, lots of dick pics, broken promises, being stood up on important dates and all the general messiness that can be found when you are searching for a life partner.

 

This story follows the life of Robin as she learns what a true relationship entails and what to look for in a man whilst she balances life with a young child and builds a career. There are plenty of funny moments and lots of “hey! I do that too” moments that make Robin incredibly easy to unite with and like. She talks of the pressures of fitting in, mummy-guilt, the restrictions of being a single mother and the loneliness that so many mothers feel. It’s touching in places and easily relatable. Pentland has avoided the clichés of so many novels that make the heroine too glamorous or fabulous, instead making a main character who you think could be your best friend in real life.

 

So in the end one has to ask, is this novel going to change the course of the world and the way society behaves from here on forth? Is it going to stand the test of time and be studied by students in secondary or universities in the future? No. It’s a fluffy bit of light reading that is purely for enjoyment. But there is inherently nothing wrong with that. Sometimes it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Buddwing

Buddwing

Two Stars

 

This is a perplexing and frenzied book that explores the day of one self-baptised Sam Buddwing, a man who wakes up on a Central Park bench and doesn’t know his name, age, address or place in the world. At first the book follows the theme well as Sam strives to figure out whom he is, knowing instinctively that he belongs to New York City as a native, but not sure where he belongs. In the last third of the book things get really chaotic as we are taken down a pathway of memories and real life like an ice and fruit smoothie in a blender, all mixed up and melded into one another.

 

The basic premise of the book is a great one. Imagine waking up one day and not having a clue who you are or what you are doing here. Strangely the main character isn’t frightened by the event in so much as he is sure that he can work it out himself if he can just find the right clues. So we travel for the day with this unknown man as he makes contact with strangers around the city and watching his interactions with them. Each step of the way the expectation is that Sam will find someone who recognises him and will be able to fill in the gaps of his knowledge of himself.

 

This was undoubtedly a racy book of it time, originally published in December of 1964, as several times over the course of the day Sam Buddwing finds himself in extremely intimate situations with strangers. There is even a group sex scene that takes place during the day, although it isn’t as crudely vulgar or lewd as a similar sex scene of today would be written.

 

There are red herrings thrown in about Sam’s possible identity throughout the book, but it isn’t until the dying moments of the book that the truth of the situation is revealed, although it isn’t clearly delineated and seems to be lost in the chaos of the story, although that may possibly be what the author was striving to achieve.

 

Confusing. Disordered. Unnerving. Disjointed. Disturbing. If you like novels that are a little bit left of centre, this book is going to be right up your alley. Just don’t expect any happy endings.

Seeking Sarah

Seeking Sarah

Three Stars

 

published 15th August 2017

 

 

 

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

This novel left me feeling twisted inside with anguish and distress. The story was often cruel and unnecessary and so filled with venom and naked revenge it made for an uncomfortable read.

Brooke Green’s mother had died when she was seven years old. At least, that’s what she’s been told all her life. So it comes as a devastating revelation after her father’s unexpected death that her mother is indeed still alive. Tracking her mother down to Atlanta causes problems between her fiancé and herself, but she is unable to let go of her desire to meet and confront her mother. Finding her mum living only six hours away from herself, Brooke concocts a reason to be transferred to Atlanta through her work and sets out to spy on and gather as much information through her mother’s new children and husband. A chance encounter between her mother and herself in which Brooke is not instantly recognised by her mother leads to her suddenly filled with rage and her desire for vengeance becomes palpable. Brooke does all she can to cause mischief and mayhem in her mother’s life. There is no limit to which she won’t sink to make her mother feel the grief and misery Brooke feels.

This is a painful story to read, watching a grown woman hell bent on revenge against another women who she does not even have courtesy to find out the reasons why she made the choice she did twenty five years ago. This level of fury and reprisal would be expected from a twelve year old, not a woman of 32. Brooke is childish and self-centred. She is filled with self-pity and really holds everyone around her as guilty for life. Brooke is not a likable character and even with her extenuating circumstances, it makes her just plain ugly. Her behaviour and actions caused incredible grief in more than one family.

ReShonda Tate Billingsley is a brilliant writer to be able to develop such physical reactions in a reader to emotional issues within a book. The pacing is fast and the plotline well crafted; it’s just a pity that the main character was so unlikeable.

Strangers When We Meet

 

Strangers When We Meet

Three Stars

 

Originally written in 1958, there are undoubtedly some parts and outlooks on life and issues in Strangers When We Meet that have not travelled well in the 59 years since it was written, but that doesn’t take away from the story and the overall sadness of the situations portrayed in this book.

Larry Cole has it all; a prize winning career as an architect, his loving wife Eve and two small sons. But Margret Gault, just standing there at the children’s bus stop with her son is the sexiest woman he has ever seen. Something about her catches his eye and his libido. And so begins the affair.

This book is heartbreaking in its clean decisive dissection of an affair. It looks at the fallout from the affair on the innocent parties and the not so innocent. It is a cold and calculated decision to begin the affair based on nothing more than a lust for something that wasn’t right to lust over. It looks at the victim mentality and the predators actions. It looks at the moral rights and wrongs of continuing with such behaviour and the changes that it brings about in the adulterous person and the cruelty of what it does to the sinned against.

This is a powerful book that is filled with wretchedness and misery and yet reads easily and makes you want to turn the page to keep going. It examines the decisions and actions that produced this affair and it offers opportunities to right the wrongs often that are never acted upon. Perhaps the ending is a little too predictable in some regards; in others it is not and is shocking when delivered.

Powerful and wretched, it is still a book well worth reading.

The Other La Bohème

The Other La Boheme

 

Yorker Keith

Three Stars

 

It won’t matter if you’re not an opera aficionado, you’re still going to be able to enjoy this book; but if you have any insight into the world of opera them you will probably love this novel.

This book mainly follows the lives of four people, Jennifer, Stephanie, Henry and John, forming the group Dolci Quattro, although there is also a cast of at least 14 minor characters in this book to keep track of, making it at times a little unwieldy. The four met in university, forming a firm friendship where they pledged allegiance to support one another until they made it as a singer to a top tier opera company. This story follows their lives as they struggle with a new opera company trying itself to become a legitimate entity in its own right in New York City. And the opera they are rehearsing? La Boheme by Leoncavallo.

This book is rich in experience, transporting the reader into the world of opera and all that it demands of its singers. More than once there are passages extolling the virtue and exacting nature of the work it requires of any performer wishing to become an opera performer. But it also follows the life of the four outside of their work in the opera.

Jennifer is engaged to Richard, a wealthy banker who expects the very best in life, but who has been distracted and distant for a while. Stephanie is estranged from her rich father, blaming him for her mother’s untimely death and refusing to reconcile with him. John is married to Michelle, herself a painter, who expects a normal suburban life with a man determined to sing opera whilst balancing working and supporting her. Henry is exploring a relationship with a woman and he doesn’t know if she can truly support his work and dedication to the opera and is under pressure from his family to give up opera singing and ‘settle down’. We follow the ups and downs of the core four as they navigate life and ambition.

This book is set out in Acts and Scenes like an opera would be rather than chapters, but it really isn’t a challenge to follow the story. You understand throughout the book the single mindedness that it takes to make it in this creative field. At times the parts of the book written about the actual opera could be a little tiring as it was so technical and exact, but having the words of the opera translated from Italian into English was a real treat, as it made the opera come alive.

This is a wonderful story delving into another world. Engaging, touching and enlightening, this is a great read for those who wish to see into an alternative domain.

 

 

1001 Promises of God

 Barbour Books

 

Published 1st July 2017

 

This is a huge compilation of great Bible verses given to encourage the believer in a handy book form.

But it has a major flaw that is hard to see past.

The Bible used to gather the verses from is the King James Version. Although it is in the top five of versions sold around the world, it is full of theeing and thouing and any number of speech styles that do not flow off the modern tongue easily, taking away from the ease of appreciation of the work.

The most commonly known Bible versions like the New International Version, or the New Living Translation, or the English Standard Version would have been a much better choice to take verses from for the modern reader to dwell on. Even the New King James Version would have been a better fit for the modern market than the King James Version.

It takes away from the enjoyment of reading and takes away from the understanding of the promises the verses are trying to highlight to the believer.

It is disappointing to say the least.