Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Turn Of Mind by Alice LaPlante

I've had a really busy time just lately, the most exciting thing was a Reader's Day that I organised, I'll post more about that later.

My latest review book from Amazon Vine arrived early last week; Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, published by Harvill Secker.

Wow, what a fabulous read - not an easy read by any means though.  It's a difficult subject to tackle in fiction but LaPlante has nailed it.  It's due to be published on 7 July 2011 here in the UK and I really hope that it does very well.

I was left stunned by the power of this novel, and it's effect on me.  I finished the novel during a longish car journey and spent the rest of the drive contemplating the story and the writing style.

This is not an easy read, the subject matter is very difficult and at times the writing style can be difficult to follow.   Told in the first person by Dr Jennifer White in a mixture of ways - through diary journals, through flash-backs and dreams and through dialogue.  Jennifer was a brilliant surgeon, her speciality was hand surgery, she still has a brilliant mind ...... sometimes.    Jennifer has Alzheimers and is struggling, sometimes she wonders just who that blond woman in the kitchen is, sometimes she knows who her daughter is and always she forgets that her friend Amanda is dead.
It is Amanda's murder that is the central point of the story, the police suspect Jennifer.  After all, Amanda's body was discovered with her fingers surgically removed from one hand - how many people in Amanda's life could do that.
Alice LaPlante
As the novel continues, the reader is let into Jennifer's world - it's not easy place to be, and it seems that Jennifer has not always been the nicest of woman, but flash backs reveal truths that have been hidden and only add to the story and to the make up of the characters.
Yes, there will be comparisons to Alice Genova's Still Alice, which I really enjoyed reading too, but I became so much more involved in the story and the cast of  Turn of Mind.
A very clever debut novel - I'm sure that Alice LaPlante is going to go from strength to strength, I can hardly wait to see what she comes upwith after this

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Click: An Online Love Story by Lisa Becker

I was contacted a few weeks ago by American author Lisa Becker.

She kindly sent me a copy of her self-published  book; Click: An Online Love Story - and included a lovely dedication on the front page.

I'm probably not the target audience for Click - being a mid-forties, married for ages, British woman but that didn't stop me from enjoying the book.

Written in e-mail format, this is Renee's story of her experiences with online dating.  In the main, the emails are between Renee and her three friends; Shelley, Ashley and Mark, and then there is the email correspondence between Renee and her potential dates.

This is not a new way of telling a story, it's been done before and done well, but it is a clever way.  Lisa Becker has managed to portray the characters well through their messages - with hints about their friendship history and their current lives.

Lisa Becker
On the whole, the book works well, there were times when it was obvious that little extra details had been added into the email messages - purely to inform the reader of events that had happened in the past.  Maybe not things that close friends would say in an email, they wouldn't need to, but it did help to get the gist of the character relationships.

Click is an easy, quick and at times, really funny read.  Renee is a great lead character, although I wasn't so keen on her friend Shelley and especially hated the way she signed off from her emails with the phrase 'Mwah! Mwah!' - and really, does anyone have quite that much sex - with that many different people??

I did enjoy reading Click, and believe a follow-up book is planned - I'd suggest an extra edit on the next one though.  

Huge thanks to Lisa for sending the book to me and I wish her the best of luck with her writing career.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C Morais

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C Morais has recently been published here in the UK by Alma Books and I was excited to receive a review copy from New Books Magazine.
My passions in life are books and food, so foodie-lit is a great favourite of mine.  I'm pleased to say that Richard C Morais' novel is a joy to read, a story to savour and lose yourself in.

The Haji family of Mumbai are a large, boisterous clan who come from a line of restauranteurs - back in the 1930s their grandparents started their business by delivering tiffin boxes (or lunchboxes here in the UK) to the office workers of Mumbai.  Their business grew until they became well-respected members of the culinary scene.
The story revolves around Hassan - the gifted and talented chef of the family, but his extended family, especially his father are all wonderfully portrayed.  Larger than life characters with an authentic voice and some laugh out loud funny antics.  

When Hassan's mother is tragically killed, his father decides that he will pack up his family and move to Europe.  And so begins their hectic journey, first to London and then to a small village in France.  It is in the village of Lumiere that Hassan fulfils his potential.   

When the highly respected Michelin starred chef Madame Mallory first realises that this rag-tag Indian family intend to open a restaurant opposite her own, she is mortified, and the battles between her and Papa are fierce - yet so funny at the same time.   Eventually though, after some painful times, Madame Mallory realises that Hassan has the potential to be a world-class chef and so she sets him on his journey to his own Michelin star.
This really is a wonderful read - it will appeal to fans of Joanne Harris' 'Chocolat' and Anthony Capella's 'The Food of Love'.  With vivid descriptions, not just of the delicious food, but of the characters too and a charming story, the reader is captured and transported into the world of haute-cuisine.
I enjoyed every page of this and am pleased to read that this may soon be made into a film.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

I Am God by Giorgio Faletti

Crime fiction is not my favourite genre, but when it is done well, I really do enjoy it.

Emily and Jamie from Constable Robinson publishers regularly feed my reading needs, sending me a wide assortment of their titles to try.  

When I Am God by Giorgio Faletti dropped through the letterbox, I really wasn't sure what to think - the cover alone is enough to scare the pants off you and the blurb on the back is intriguing.

So, a couple of days later, I finally raise my head from the pages, and it really has been the most fabulous read, to use a well-worn phrase; 'I really couldn't put it down'.

This is a very cleverly written novel, with a wide cast of characters who at first seem to have nothing whatsoever to link them, as the story unfolds, these characters become more and more entwined within this gripping story.

There is a serial killer on the loose.  A serial killer with a difference - the police are aware that there are buildings in New York city that have mines in their foundations - they were put there at the time of construction and someone, somewhere is making sure that they are detonated.  

Vivian Light is the policewoman in charge of the investigation and the chase to find the killer and what follows is a superbly crafted thriller with red-herrings, twists and unexpected events galore - keeping the interest of the reader throughout the story.

An unpredictable story line, an astounding ending and some really realistic characters - added to a sense of tension that is almost unbearable towards the end, this novel is a real triumph of a thriller.

Many thanks, as always to Emily and Jamie for sending me some fantastic reading material.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford's 'Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet' has already been a world-wide sensation since it was originally published in 2009.  

It was re-released by Allison and Busby for the UK in April 2011 and I send a huge thank you to Lesley from A&B who knows my taste so very well and sent me this copy for review.
It's at times like this that I wish I were a writer and not just a reader as there is no way my words can ever do this beautiful novel the justice that it deserves.   I would go as far as using the word 'masterpiece' to describe it and I feel a little bereft at the thought that I no longer have the wonderful world of Henry Lee to escape to having finished the book.
A dual time narrative, set in 1942 and 1986 - in Seattle, USA, with Henry Lee as the main character.  In 1942, Henry is 13 years old and attending a Caucasian school in the city.   Henry doesn't really know just who he is.  At home he is forbidden to speak Cantonese as his parents want him to be 'American', yet neither his Father or his Mother speak English well enough to hold a conversation.  At school, he is bullied and picked on by the white American pupils and called a 'white devil' by the Chinese kids in the area who attend the Chinese school.  And then there is the badge that his Father insists that he wear on his jacket - the one that reads 'I Am Chinese'.   Henry's father is terrified that someone will mistake him for a a Japanese boy - America is at war and the Japanese are the enemy, even those that were born in America.    
At school, Henry helps out in the school canteen and it is when American-born of Japanese parents, Keiko begins to work there too that he realises just how different he is to his father.  To him Keiko is his special friend, she's American, her parents are professional people, she doesn't even speak Japanese.   Henry and Keiko become allies - discovering Jazz music and spending hours together.  
And then, the USA Government decide to 'evacuate' everyone of Japanese origin.  Keiko and her family are sent to ready-made internment camps where they will stay for the next three years or so.   In the rush to leave, some of the Japanese families ask their friends to look after some of their possessions - others are stored in the basement of the Panama Hotel.  It is when Henry's father finds Keiko's possessions in his room that he finally stops speaking to him altogether.
The 1980s section of the story opens with the discovery of the possessions that have been stored in the basement for over 40 years - as Henry passes by, all his memories of his friendship with Keiko rush back to him - memories both bitter and sweet.
Jamie Ford
To say anymore about the story would give it all away - and I don't want to do that.  I do want to urge everyone to pick up this wonderfully written, beautifully evocative story and read it.  It's in no way soppy or sentimental, yet it is a true love story, but also a story that will haunt the reader.  The treatment of the Japanese people, the internment camps and the subsequent loss of identity is a terrible thing, yet the stoicism and acceptance of the people shines through in this story - the whole book captures the resilience of humans. The characters are expertly drawn, with Henry and his jazz-playing friend Sheldon being my favourites.
A fantastic debut, very well researched, tenderly written - a hugely satisfying read.

Monday, 6 June 2011

A Watery Grave by Jean Chapman

We returned from a wonderful fortnight on the beautiful island of Corfu on Friday.  Two weeks of clear blue skies, lots of relaxing, strolling in the countryside, great food and drink and of course, lots and lots of reading.  Pure bliss!

Greece is one of my favourite places in the world and I especially enjoy visiting Corfu - Arillas is in the north-west part of the island, it's a tiny resort, very unspoilt and still quite traditional.  With chickens and geese running around outside our room and fresh eggs every morning for breakfast, it really was the perfect break.

Before I left I was contacted by Jean Chapman, the author of A Watery Grave - a crime mystery novel set in the Lincolnshire Fens.  

I really enjoy reading novels set in places that I know and love, and as I live in Lincolnshire I was looking forward to reading this.  It's a quick and easy but exciting read and here are my thoughts:

A Watery Grave is the second in a series featuring John Cannon, an ex-Met officer who is now the landlord of a Lincolnshire Fenland pub.  Although I've not read the first in the series; 'Both Sides of the Fence', it was not difficult to get to know the main characters in the story.
John Cannon is out for an early morning run when he becomes entangled in some discarded fishling line, annoyed at the danger this poses to wildlife and other walkers he decides to gather it up and dispose of it.  It soon becomes clear that this line has been used for something far more sinister than a spot of trout poaching.  

John discovers the body of a dead man, murdered by garotting and left to the elements.   John recognises the body as a local builder and once a policeman, always a policeman - he soon becomes involved in the hunt for the murderer.   

It becomes clear that this is no ordinary killing, the victim has become mixed up in the dodgy world of the local Mr Big - a Portuguese man who controls an empire including illegal immigrants, prostitution and extortion.   

Although this is an exciting plotline with lots of twists in the story, it was the description of the Lincolnshire Fenlands that I enjoyed the most.  

The stark, flat and wild fens on the coastline were drawn so well, I could almost feel that biting wind as it blows in from the sea, the descriptions are wonderfully written.  

An interesting mix of characters and a leading man with an air of recklessness and mystery about him, this was a story that I enjoyed reading and look forward todiscovering more about John Cannon in future books in the series.