Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

AfterwardsAfterwards by Rosamund Lupton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The author took a big risk with the concept of this book - a novel narrated by the spirit of a woman in a coma, whose astral body wanders at will around the hospital in which she lies accompanied by the spirit if her daughter with whom she can converse. I had a few niggling doubts right at the start as to whether it would work - however it did and in style, the authors skilled accomplished writing saw to that.

Grace is Mum to teenage Jenny and 8 year old Addie. At the beginning of the book Grace and Jenny both lie in deep unconsciousness in hospital following a harrowing experience in a fire at the school Addie attends, where 16 year old Jenny is a trainee teaching assistant.

When Grace becomes aware that she is experiencing an out of body experience in the hospital, she starts to examine events surrounding the fire which has left her in a coma and Jenny badly injured and soon comes to the conclusion that it was arson. Who started it? This is the question Grace is desperate to find the answer to for whoever started this terrible fire may also have wanted Jenny dead.

We are introduced to some very real characters and as Grace follows investigations, coming to her own conclusions and speaking throughout, unheard to her husband we are taken on a real switchback ride, until we no longer know who can be trusted and suspect the likely and far less likely culprits in turn.

I found the story a touch confusing especially when Grace keeps addressing her thoughts to her husband and I had to suspend disbelief in the slightly supernatural element, the whys and wherefores of which are glossed over and you just have to accept that its the way things happen in this book. However the unputdownableness of this page turner and its many red herrings which are gradually revealed like layers of an onion being peeled make it a hugely enjoyable and worthwhile read.

Its a hugely emotional novel, focussing strongly on the depth of love surviving beyond consciousness and I can guarantee if you don't shed a tear by the end you have a heart of stone.

I'd highly recommend it to anyone who liked books like The Lovely Bones

and Her Fearful Symmetryand of course Rosamund Luptons previous, debut novel the excellent Sister.

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Monday, 15 August 2011

The Sandalwood tree - Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree: A NovelThe Sandalwood Tree: A Novel by Elle Newmark

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm reviewing this book as part of the Transworld reading challenge 2011.

I'm so glad I signed up for this reading group challenge as this is a book I might have missed otherwise and what a shame that would have been. I often shy away from historical fiction set in India as its not a period I'm familiar with or particularly drawn to, however this book is so well written and accesible it feeds you a little of the history and feel of India in two periods in the past, the mid 1900s and the mid 1800s.

Beginning in 1947 when British colonization is coming to a tense end and the days of the Raj are crumbling, the story is narrated by Evie who is travelling hopefully from America to India with her husband Martin and their small boy Billy. Whilst she settles into their new home and tries to adapt to a new way of life, resisting becoming an Ex-pat Memsahib, Martin becomes increasing more remote as he becomes absorbed in his research work into Indian politics. Recently returned from active service in WW2 he seems changed and troubled but will not share his concerns with Evie.

In their rented bungalow in the foothills of the Himalayas Evie discovers some letters from almost a century earlier and becomes immersed in her own research, trying to find out what happened to the unconventional characters mentioned in the letters.

All around her whirls the vibrant life of colonial India at a time of huge unrest and the descriptions are detailed and tangible, her marriage is unfurling and she struggles to find a niche in society for herself whilst loving the beauty of India and being terrified by its poverty and troubles. The book is compelling, informative, interesting and a joy to read.

It is made event more poignant by the discovery that the talented writer of this book, Elle Newmark passed away recently and this delightful book is both her swansong and tribute to a personal family member.

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Monday, 8 August 2011

Transworld Book group reading challenge

The other day a forum friend on Read it swap it told me about the Transworld reading group book challenge.

It's the chance for book reviewers and bloggers to receive their choice of 4 lovely new titles, in exchnage for reviewing them and displaying the Transworld logo. It sounds great fun and I received my first book today - the Sandalwood tree by Elle Newman. Watch this space for my forthcoming review as soon as I've read it and if you'd like to take part too you can read more about it by clicking on the logo.

Last letter from your lover

Last Letter from Your LoverLast Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another cracking read courtesy of the kind folk at Netgalley.

Possibly my ebook is a slightly different version than that I've seen reviewed on Goodreads as other readers mention it beginning with the modern day story of Ellie, whereas my copy began in the 1960s with Jennifer coming round in hospital and suffering memory loss. I didn't meet Ellie until I'd read a good two thirds of the book.

Nevertheless this was a poignant and compelling love story mainly set as mentioned in the early 1960s when the main heroine Jennifer is recovering from a perturbing car crash which has left her with amnesia. Returning from hospital to her marital home complete with rather cold husband and thrown into a bewildering social whirl with a group of friends she can't recall. Discovering a series of letters addressed to her helps her begin to remember events before the accident and the mystery whilst unravelling, deepens, creating more puzzles for her to solve.

Much later in the book these same letters come to light in the present day where a young newspaper reporter is trying to hold on to a flagging career and rather one sided relationship. Can these letters help her make sense of issues in her own life?

An unashamedly romantic book, with quite a few twists and turns to keep you intrigued - but be warned a large box of hankies is the pre-requisite accessory to this novel.

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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: 5 of 5 stars

What a truly delightful read this book is. I was blown away by its charm and depth.

Here's a description from Amazon:

1986, The Panama Hotel The old Seattle landmark has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: personal belongings stored away by Japanese families sent to interment camps during the Second World War. Among the fascinated crowd gathering outside the hotel, stands Henry Lee, and, as the owner unfurls a distinctive parasol, he is flooded by memories of his childhood. He wonders if by some miracle, in amongst the boxes of dusty treasures, lies a link to the Okabe family, and the girl he lost his young heart to, so many years ago. With over a million copies sold worldwide, this captivating debut is a story of the sacrifices one boy makes for love and for his country.

My thoughts ... This is a dual time novel set in 1986 and also in 1940s America during are days of prohibition, mistrust and racial tension. The narrator is elderly Henry, looking back on his youth during the second world war. Born of Chinese parents and aged 13 Henry struggles to maintain his racial identity. His best friend is a black sax player until he meets Keiko, but she is Japanese, part of race being persecuted relentlessly by the Americans.

This is a truly sensational historical statement and a beautiful love story peopled by the most well rounded believeable characters - even the secondary characters will stay with me for a long time. There is so much crammed into this lovely book you'd think it would be complicated but its a real page turner and so easy to love I can't recommend it highly enough.

Slightly surprised to discover that the author Jamie Ford is a "Dude" as he calls himself.

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Blog Tour - The Rectors Daughter by Jean Fullerton - review

Blog Tour - The Rectors Daughter by Jean Fullerton - review Today is my stop on the Blog Tour from Rachels Random Resources for the l...