Rose and Poe

Rose and Poe

Jack Todd

Four Stars

 

Published 17th October 2017

 

This glorious little book is the retelling of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest but you needn’t have read the play to understand the book or be touched by its beauty.

 

Set in the mythical Belle Coeur County up alongside the Canadian border, independent orphan Rose becomes a pregnant teen and gives birth to the gargantuan Poe. Born eighteen pounds, he has a hump on his back, a port wine birthmark the shape of Africa on his face; he has six fingers and six toes and is meek and gentle as a lamb. Rose fights the establishment to keep her child and settles into life as a single parent with no support from her anyone. Suddenly the scene shifts and we discover Poe as a grown man, still soft and simple, and Rose making their way through life the best they can doing menial and tough jobs for little to no money because ‘ they don’t know no better’ and Rose making goats cheese from their own flock of goats. We discover that they have few close friends but live happily on the edges of the town and find peace and happiness with each other.

 

Poe does have a dear friend in the form of Miranda, who is younger than he is, but devoted to him, baking treats and teaching him how to divide them up during his work day and spending time with him doing simple things such as fishing. Poe adores Miranda, but  also sees her as a sexual being, although he would never act upon his desires. Or would he? Seen one day carrying an unconscious Miranda out of the forest beaten and obviously sexually assaulted, naturally suspicion falls on Poe, who is unable to defend himself and unhelpfully Miranda has no recollection of the attack. A trial takes place and some of the townsfolk are unhappy with the outcome and take matters into their own hands. Misery is enacted upon Rose and Poe who are helpless against the onslaught. But is the attack warranted? Did Poe actually do the unthinkable?

 

Every page of this novel is filled with glorious, simple descriptions such as a buttermilk moon or a charcoal ribbon of cloud. The characters are easy to identify with. Poe, despite appearances otherwise, is a kind child-man who only ever wants to be loved and useful. Rose is strong and you can’t help but feel like life owes her a kindly turn or two. When things start to go wrong for Poe, you instantly feel defensive over him, knowing him to be a compliant soul.

 

The story has the ability to whisk you away to a time and place that you can’t really put a handle on and yet is timeless in its truth. Todd weaves a kind of magic with his prose, perhaps unfairly unexpected when you consider that he is a sports commentator based in Montreal. The writing doesn’t flinch away from the brutal side of situations and yet is able to create a mist of enchantment around it at the same time. Themes of love, acceptance and the way society is quick to judge the ones who differentiate from the norm are explored. At times Rose and Poe reads as if a fairy tale and yet is rooted soundly in reality. This is a beautiful, tragic, powerful and rich story and well worth the read.

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Don’t Wake Up

Dont Wake Up

Liz Lawler

Three Stars

Alex Taylor is someone that if they were real you would probably feel intimidated by. She is a doctor working successfully at the A&E of a hospital near Bath, UK. She is a licensed helicopter pilot. She is tall, slim and very attractive and has the dashing veterinarian boyfriend to go with it. She would be a total nightmare if it weren’t for the fact someone has taken her hostage and is threatening all manner of mischief medically speaking as she lies naked, tied to a steel trolley in an operating room. Beside her is a man claiming to be The Doctor and he is threatening her real harm if she doesn’t behave in the manner he expects. Her helplessness and fear simply leaps off the page.

But somehow she is allowed her freedom and they find her unconscious under a tree in the hospital grounds and in the emergency room as a patient herself, claiming that she has been raped and tortured. Medical examination would conclude otherwise. Did she dream it all? Because it felt pretty real to her. Alex soon gathers negative attention from both hospital staff and police to herself by insisting on her story being real, although they tell her repeatedly that she is suffering a delusion and she should get some professional help. Alex starts to wonder about her own mental well-being herself, until The Doctors next victim comes into the emergency room, suffering horrific injuries. Alex is one of the doctors attempting to save the life of the young woman and hears her say the same statement that Alex herself had said when she was brought into the A&E. And then another odd situation occurs and involves Alex. Things begin to happen around her that make no sense to her, things that people around her are able to explain away despite her fears and life becomes something of a nightmare for Alex.

It’s really good. The suspense, the red herrings, the police investigation; it’s all really good. You know that something is going on that just isn’t right, but until the killer twist is revealed, you have no idea of what is going on or who is behind all the attacks. The Doctor will scare the bejebbies out of you with what he is capable of. Lawler has written a menacing book in which who dunnit is superbly played out. It is fast paced and keeps you guessing all the way. This is a mind twist from the very start. It’s scary pretty much from the opening pages and the twists and missteps of all involved are intriguing and at times frightening until you read the last page. Well worth the read.

Seven Suspects

Seven Suspects

Renee James

Three Stars

Released 3rd October 2017

It’s not often that you get to say you learnt something from a work of fiction that will leave an indelible mark on who you are as a person. But this book is capable of making such a change on a reader.

 

The world of transgendered people is not, I’m willing to bet, something that many people have experience with. Sure, we might have seen a documentary or two on it, but the day to day life, the reality of what a transgendered person goes through in this world of cisgendered people is something to behold, and we get a small glimpse of it in Renee James’ book, Seven Suspects.

 

Clearly this book is part of an ongoing serious (it is number three in the Bobbi Logan Crime series) that follows the trials and tribulations of one Ms Bobbi Logan. She is six feet tall, forty-seven years of age, and was born a white male, transitioning to her female self in her thirties living in Chicago. She is a business owner and she has all the same dreams and hopes that most anyone has. She wants to have a successful career, a nice home and a fulfilling relationship. She has a sister relationship with Betsy, her former wife, is an honorary aunt to Betsy’s child Roberta and had a wonderful relationship with a cop named Phil, although that is on the skids in this chapter of her story.

 

In this book Bobbi begins to feel as if something is not quite right, and she slowly comes to the realisation that she is being stalked. Her dearest friend Cecilia makes note that Bobbi has not been winning hearts and making friends of all she meets lately, and that she might indeed have a few enemies. Bobbi makes a list of all the people who might possibly be stalking her and comes out with a list of six people. But Bobbi believes that numbers are part of the celestial working of the world, and believes that there should be seven suspects on her list, as seven is an important number. She then sets off to confront each and every one of the suspects to try and ferret out who is stalking her, trying to get them to stop, but she is convinced after her initial ‘investigations’ that none of the men on the list are the actual criminal. So it comes down to who she isn’t seeing who must be the seventh suspect out to get her, and it is indeed the way the universe works, making the seventh suspect ‘the one’.

 

This book gave a wonderful insight into the world of transgendered women, and the daily struggles they face to be seen and accepted as the women they are. Little things that never generally come to mind, such as the whole height factor for a transwoman and the possible male facial features that no amount of hormones can overcome. Or the desire to be treated as a woman and being mistaken for a man despite her best attempts to ‘pass’ as a woman. Little things that cisgendered people take for granted.

 

Although this was the third book in the series, it was easy to form an attachment with Bobbi as a character and not feel like there were many details written previously that we were not privy to now. It was easy enough to pick up the thread and understand who she was as a person and what her motivations were. There is a small cast of characters to keep track of, but all play an important part of the overall story and all are people that you care about.

 

This book is not written for faint of heart to read. If you are of a delicate constitution, then maybe this book isn’t the one for you. If you can’t cope with obscenities, then its best if you don’t read this book, as there are cuss words used and there is a line that, when you get to it, you’ll know it, and it resulted in a rip-snorting laugh for this reader with it poetic vibe, which is not the sole source of poetry in this novel. There are some chapters that leave one reeling with the brutality of what is occurring and James has not given an inch towards gentility, so if you are easily frightened or are triggered by rape scenes and talk, then this is not the book for you. This volume is cold and rough and violent in part and it leaves the reader feeling quite disturbed. When it goes dark, its goes black. That’s not to say that this book should be avoided, rather, forewarned is forearmed.

 

Themes of family and what that looks like in a modern world, the assumptions we make of other people and the façade that people can put up are also explored. Themes of transgendered people’s difficulties are explored several times in this book.

 

My mind shifts gear. Every slight, every bigoted sneer, every nasty laugh, all the things I thought didn’t touch me come racing through my vision now, summoned by the certainty that there will always be people who see people like me as targets, not people.

If Nightmare Man jumps me here, he can beat me to death and leave without being seen. He might even be able to get in a quick rape, though that would be much riskier. 

It’s hard to imagine life under those constant thoughts, but that’s what this book makes come alive.

 

This is a suspenseful novel that is entertaining as well as insightful. Well worth the time to read.

P.S. From Paris

P.S. from Paris (US edition)P.S. from Paris by Marc Levy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m going to be upfront and personal here. I am a dyed in the wool Francophile. I get giddy at all things French. Anything to do with France and I’m pretty well sold on the concept. I follow bloggers from France, I buy photography books with photos from France, I dream of the day I can visit the country and I even own salt and pepper shaking in the form of the Eiffel Tower. (Yes, I really do and they are glorious.) So to learn that Marc Levy is a French writer who has written a romance novel that I get to review seems almost too good to be true. I was pretty well in love with it before I’ve even read the opening lines.

This story is told from two main protagonists’ points of view; Mia and Paul. And there are inherent complications in the romantic situation where Mia and Paul are involved. Both of them are tangled up with other people romantically. We have Mia, who is a successful British actress married to a chump who is having an affair with the co-star and we have Paul, an American writer who has taken refuge in Paris because he found the fame of writing a best seller too much to cope with whose girlfriend Kyong lives in Seoul. But these prior romantic situations do cause problems. Mia’s husband wants to be forgiven for his bad behaviour and taken back and Kyong appears to be holding Paul at arm’s length when he makes a trip to South Korea.

This is a lovely romance story that avoids the dreaded insta-love situation; in fact, love isn’t mentioned until the very end of the novel. The love story unfolds under the guise of friendship, because Mia and Paul appear to want to ignore the fact they are attracted to each other. There is a great supporting cast of characters in the form of friends who watch with amusement as they see the romance developing. There are charming situations where mayhem unfolds, such as a night at the Opera House resulting in a possible legal situation and times in which one person thinks the other person is lying about facts about themselves and it turns out to be misunderstandings and there are texting conversations that feel adolescent in pace and fervour but are sweet. The city of Paris plays a great supporting actress role for the book, where we are taken on walks through the city and see some of the sights that make a Francophile sigh with delight.

I wanted Mia and Paul to end up together, although there were times when it didn’t appear to be likely. The times when Mia and Paul realise that they do have feelings for one another and how it is played out are what romantic dreams are made of. Levy is absolutely brilliant at writing snappy dialogue between characters, but one issue I had was that he seems to forget to show us, the reader, that there is more than a conversation happening. For example in one scene we follow a conversation in which Mia and Paul are walking along a street, only we don’t know that until Paul is pulling Mia away from the path of an oncoming car and telling her to watch herself. It just came out of nowhere; I had no idea that they were walking as they were talking. It was odd. And it happens more than once in the book. We are privy to the thoughts of both Mia and Paul and it includes some rather amusing inner monologues but because there is no differentiation between the type the thoughts can become jumbled and confusing on reading. One person’s inner thoughts are followed immediately by the thoughts of the other, making for a muddle of words.

Much like French films are very different from English films in style and focus that take time to become accustomed to and then appreciated, this romance is written in what must be a very French method. Paris was delightful as always and I would definitely read more of Levy’s other works.

View all my reviews

White Lies

White Lies

Three Stars

 

After a night of celebrating his 40th birthday, Sam and Neil Davenport are involved in a horrific road accident where they injure David McAllister horribly. Neil was driving under the influence of alcohol and asks Sam to take the blame for the accident, which, under the stress of the situation, she agrees to. But guilt eats away at Sam and she goes to the hospital that David was taken to, to apologise to him face to face. Except that she can’t. And instead gets drawn into a physical attraction with the very man she is accused of hurting without his knowledge that she is the accused driver. It doesn’t help the situation that Neil recently had a one night stand with Megan from the office and Sam’s trust and faith in her marriage has been blown to smithereens.

 

Relationships grow, get torn apart, change and morph into something different from what they originally started as and things change forever and yet remain the same. This is a fascinating book that explores the pressures on marriages, the thrill of new relationships and the pull of the old and satisfying. There is something to be said for better the devil you know. Each of the major characters in this book are well drawn, with each having flaws that shine through, making them more human or that little bit creepy.

 

You feel a very real sense of sympathy for Sam as she tries to work out where her allegiance lies, whether to take a chance on a new relationship with David or to trust that the years of marriage with Neil can heal and go back to being something she can rely on. You feel the pull she feels towards each man and the responsibility towards her two teenage children who need her desperately. The struggle she feels is plainly spread out for the reader to experience themselves.

 

The writing is interesting and the author has kept the pace steady with no slow periods of time filling. The story follows the course of one year as suggested in the contents, although it is not so easily reflected in the actual manuscript.

 

This is a great read.

I’ll Have What She’s Having

I'll Have What Shes Having

 

This work of non-fiction starts with giving the reader an insight into the personal life of Nora Ephron, the woman who famously brought us the iconic line “I’ll have what she’s having” from the movie “When Harry Met Sally.” We learn about her early life as a child of writer parents working in Hollywood, her personal relationships and her climb up the corporate ladder of Hollywood to become a director.

Taken from personal interviews conducted by the author herself and much sleuthing (her word) through the many reports written on the actors in magazines or told on television, this is a well-researched book.

At times the book can be a little confusing because the people Carlson was writing about don’t immediately come to mind so there is no metal foundation to place the information on. But when Carlson writes about people who are well known in the public eye, the flow was much easier to follow.

Carlson has managed to find any number of titbits about the actual making of the movies, the actors who had roles and the scenes created but not making the cut which is fascinating. She delves into the atmosphere on set and creates a panorama of the actors and their personalities which is so often hidden behind the perfectly constructed images created by publicity people to make the actors seem more appealing. This book is written openly enough that not everyone comes out smelling of roses. The temper tantrums, ridiculous demands and every facet of peoples ego’s are shown from every aspect.

The genesis of each movie are explored as well as the writing process including. “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” and “You’ve Got Mail” three of the most enduring romantic comedies of the 90’s to be directed by Ephron. It shows Ephron’s style of working with other people until the scene was perfect and then she would cling to her vision and demand that it be produced by the movie crew.

All in all this is a absorbing read for anyone of a certain age, fans of the historic trilogy or for the movie buffs who want a closer understanding of the dynamics behind the scenes.

Lady Be Good

Lady Be Good

Set in London, 1925, this story revolves around master spy Douglas Childers, a member of the English aristocracy and Russian princess, Serene Highness Olga Novikov who had to flee her homeland in the wake of the Bolsheviks taking over and overthrowing the Russian Imperial family earlier in the previous decade.

Olga finds herself working as the head of housekeeping in the exclusive Grand Russe Hotel, which is not at all the future that she had envisaged for herself growing up. Douglas is an intelligence agent working to discover the Bolsheviks bomb making expert who is causing mayhem around the country. Their paths cross and attraction is instant even though it holds certain dangers for both of them in their own way. Douglas is spying on Russian thugs who inhabit the suite next door to the one he has taken, breaking up violence against women and learning a smattering of Russian as he goes. Olga works hard as the head of housekeeping but the inherent regalness cannot help but show through her demeanour, appealing to Douglas. The other issue that could cause trouble in any potential relationship between the couple is that Olga’s cousin Konstantin is the criminal that Douglas and his team are trying to catch. Olga is being extorted by her cousin and yet at the same time feels a certain level of kinship with him as he is the only relative left alive from her family causing her to make decisions that are questionable to say the least.

This is a romance story with a small dose of mystery thrown in, but you certainly won’t read it as a cosy mystery. This is an easy enough story to read although the sex scenes sound hollow and are written in a very old fashioned manner with expressions such as “spreading her inner petals” being used. This very much reads like it is part of an ongoing series that has other characters main storylines in other books.

Likeable enough, but not enough in the actual story to make reading the previous books vital.