Another "First Reads" win, another winner! Others reviewers have recapped the story, so I'll cut to the chase: "The Uninvited Guests" is well-written,Another "First Reads" win, another winner! Others reviewers have recapped the story, so I'll cut to the chase: "The Uninvited Guests" is well-written, suspensful, and boasts both a wonderful plot and a strangely satisfying ending. The first hundred or so pages did drag -- by page 50 I wasn't sure I could finish the book; nothing of note, other than bickering amongst Emerald, Clovis, and their mother, had happened! -- but midway through it picked up and I found myself fairly engrossed in the plight of the characters.
As with most of my "First Reads" wins, this is not a book I would have picked up myself, but pleased as I am, I'll definitely check out Sadie Jones' other works....more
Another "First Reads" win; another gem I likely wouldn't have picked up otherwise, given that it's not technically my normal fare; and another authorAnother "First Reads" win; another gem I likely wouldn't have picked up otherwise, given that it's not technically my normal fare; and another author whose future work I will certainly seek out.
"The Paperbark Shoe" is a the story of Gin Toad (née Boyle), an Australian albino woman just turned thirty. At the opening of the book, she has given birth to three children (one already deceased) with her dwarfish, decidedly uncouth husband Agrippas Toad (known throughout most of the book simply as "Toad"), with whom she lives on a subsistence farm in Wyalkatchem, Western Australia. Scarred both physically and emotionally from years of abuse at the hands of children and adults, and a distinct lack of love, romantic and otherwise, Gin has resigned herself to her life, having given up the hopes and dreams she once had. It isn't the life she planned, and he isn't the husband she would have chosen had she managed that life she'd wanted, but he wanted her, and that was enough.
Enter John and Antonio, two of the many Italian prisoners of war sent to Australia to serve as farmhands. These four quickly find themselves entangled in more ways than one. 1940s Wyalkatchem provides a harsh backdrop to the drama of the Toads and the Italians and Goldbloom uses it to its full potential, painting the landscape and the lives of the main characters -- the adult Toads, the Toad children, and the Italian POWs -- in vivid detail. Indeed, Goldbloom pulls very few punches as she describes the harsh reality of life on the Toad land, describing Gin "beating maggots" off a piece of meat on one page and a rabbit with a broken back crawling toward the edge of the road on another.
My only "gripe" with the book as a whole is its fairly unsatisfying ending (I say "ending" for it in no way feels like a "conclusion"), but, to be fair, without taking the cliched "and they lived happily ever after" or "s/he broke his/her heart" routes (I won't say which, as I don't wish to spoil), it does feel fitting, in a way.
As I said, it's not my normal fare -- a bit too romance-y for my usual tastes -- but I did enjoy it, and I wouldn't hesitate to check out Goldbloom's future efforts....more
Having a fondness for European history as I have, the lives of the Borgia family were not unknown to my when I won this book in a GoodReads giveaway -Having a fondness for European history as I have, the lives of the Borgia family were not unknown to my when I won this book in a GoodReads giveaway -- indeed, I entered the giveaway because I was already acquainted with their colourful lives and had always found them a fascinating family.
"Sins of the House of Borgia" -- an ill-fitting title, I think, but given the upcoming series, I can understand the choice -- follows the life of Esther Sarfati, a Jewess who converts to Christianity when she becomes a lady-in-waiting for Lucrezia Borgia shortly before her third marriage at age 21. Across its 544 pages, Esther (later Donata, then Violante) becomes entangled in the lives of the powerful and corrupt Borgia family, becoming a confidant to one and the lover to another. Fifteen years -- years of births, deaths, love, hate, and constant struggles for power -- pass between the time Esther becomes Lucrezia's lady-in-waiting and when she finally flees Europe, escaping to the New World and leaving everything and everyone she knew and loved behind. The novel's epilogue is fitting and sad, an appropriate end to the lengthy confession of an aging woman with a remarkable past. Those looking for a clean, happy ending will likely be disappointed, of course, but I found the epilogue to be my favourite part of the novel....more
It's not really my normal fare, but I loved this book. It's beautifully written and incredibly detailed, with well-rounded characters and a wonderfulIt's not really my normal fare, but I loved this book. It's beautifully written and incredibly detailed, with well-rounded characters and a wonderful landscape. Before reading it, I admit, I wasn't terribly optimistic about it, and found the premise a bit... unlikely. "An orchid sets off that much chaos?" I thought. As unlikely as it sounds, an orchid really *does* set off that much chaos, when several people have such different designs for it. Alice, for example, wants to "rescue" it; Fisk, who suffers from a rather painful skin malady, wants the orchid for its medicinal properties; Wheeler, a Puritan-turned-Quaker, is rather firm in the belief that where God put the orchid is where it should stay. To say the three fight to see their outcome for the orchid prevail would be putting it mildly.
The premise may seem unlikely, but Swift does a fantastic job with it. If you enjoy historical fiction, or just a really good story about the fate of a beautiful flower, I highly recommend it.
Disclosure: I won a copy of this book via a GoodReads "first reads" giveaway....more