David Tan is a literary genius. He has written two novels that have won major literary prizes. He is Chinese but writes in English prose too beautiful for words. He is married to Laura, a go-getter woman who prizes her career highly and they live in the United States of America. It all sounds idyllic doesn’t it? Except it’s not. David and Laura’s marriage is rocky to say the least and David’s new job as a lecturer of Literature at the fancy university is creating a huge amount of stress for him because whilst he might be profound with the written word, he is far from proficient in the English language, which leads to all manner of confusion and frustration both personally and professionally.
This is a simple read, not too long at 215 pages and easy to get through. The frustration that David experiences in his inability to physically express what he is mentally thinking and feeling is very real as he grapples with the language. The linguistic style is stilted and halting, very much like a new language speaker is. The way the relationship between Laura and David is described I’m sure meant to be a light hearted expression of a marriage falling apart, but at times it was difficult to read because it was so abusive. David is walking on eggshells around his wife, doing everything he can to win her affection and she is, even though I’m sure the author meant her to be sympathetic, in a word, a bitch.
The story has a nice cylindrical feel to it starting as it ends, making it a clever twist from the author. The characters are not all likable and you do feel strongly sympathy for David and the challenges before him. There is a nice group of background characters who become David’s friends and support network. A fair proportion of the story is given over to Laura’s working experience and the challenges set before her with a nice twist that plays into the whole story.
Looking at the difficulty of enveloping oneself into a foreign culture, what it takes to make a relationship work and how difficult life is in the academic world with student evaluations and self-righteous behaviour are all explored here. It is an easy story and provided some entertainment on a summer’s day.
This is number five in the series of books, but was easily read as a stand-alone without needing too much prior knowledge of the storyline.
Detective Ari Greene has just come back to Toronto from a self-imposed exile in London after having been falsely accused and acquitted of murder with his previously unknown English daughter Alison in tow. Unwilling to return to police duty, he takes up work as a labourer for a construction company under the leadership of his good friend, who in turn, words for Livingston Fox, boy wonder developer of the construction world. That is, until Fox is found brutally murdered on the very same work site that Greene is working on. What follows is Greens reluctant return to working out the mystery of who murdered Fox on an unofficial basis as a ‘concerned citizen’ rather than on the approved police line-up.
This is not a long book and is fairly easy to fly through in a sitting or two. It’s not quite a cosy mystery, but maybe a close cousin of one. The clues are laid out clearly from the start, it’s a matter of how quickly you pick up on them and put the pieces of the puzzle together. Character development is drawn out and not very detailed, but perhaps that is because there are four previous books and more planned in which to take the series forward. The underlying progression of Alison and Ari becoming closer as a newly formed family is gently played out. There are enough characters in this book to create possible villains but not so many as impossible to keep track of.
This was entertaining enough to fill in a rainy summers day, but it does not ignite the passions to make the reader want to go back and read the series from the start.
In a nut shell this is about Jim, Joyce and what they learnt as they travelled the weary path of battling pancreatic cancer.
Within the early stages of this book we are initially taken for a wander down a memory lane that shares with us the tender love story between Joyce and Jim, two independent, successful people who fell in love in their late 50’s. It’s the story of the changes made in the couple as they learn to lean on each other and support each other through what were trying, harrowing times.
Jim and Joyce found each other later in life. Joyce was determined to not let love and the institution of marriage change who she was as a person. If she wanted something, she didn’t discuss it with Jim, she just went ahead and did, from unimportant things as her work schedule to buying a house, sight unseen on the other side of the country. Jim was a lawyer who very much enjoyed the good life that such an income could afford for him. On paper it would seem that they weren’t a match, but real life is tricky and plays games with us and sets aflame the heart’s desire. They married each other in a romantic setting surrounded by love and family.
A year into the marriage Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Of all cancers, it’s one of the cancers that you really don’t want. This then covers the bulk of the story, in which Joyce describes the journey from denial to acceptance and then the actuality of death over the course of nineteen months. It is heartbreaking and searing in its honesty. It is, however, an indictment to the American health system and how the rich can afford health care. It would have been a very different story if they hadn’t been rich and able to afford travelling from one side of the country to the other seeking out the best surgeons and medical treatment money could buy.
This story is more than the journey Joyce and Jim travelled as they fought to preserve his life. It shows clearly the journey Joyce took in becoming a better human being, committed to another person’s welfare ahead of her own whims and fancies. It reveals layer by layer the desperation she felt as she watched helplessly as cancer stole her husband away from her. It shows her growing dependence upon and need for her husband and further when he couldn’t fulfil the role he wanted to for her.
It is a moving tribute to a once in a lifetime kind of love story. It examines both the tribulation and the trials of bad news and it celebrates whole heartedly the good news and the moments of success against this creeping killer. It never strays into sugary sentimentally and yet it truly reveals the agonising hell that cancer is. This is not a romanticised look at cancer. It’s raw and painful and the journey is a weary one, and it doesn’t end with a happily ever after. It is well worth the read.
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.
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.
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.
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.