One of my favourite books of the modern age, on my 5th or 6th reread (found it long before Slumdog Millionare was even a twinkle in Danny Boyle's eye)One of my favourite books of the modern age, on my 5th or 6th reread (found it long before Slumdog Millionare was even a twinkle in Danny Boyle's eye). Brilliantly compelling and beautifully tied together, I'd recommend this read to anyone....more
Utterly charming! Realistic characters and stories; woven together in a not necessarily entirely unique way - however pulled off effectively and not oUtterly charming! Realistic characters and stories; woven together in a not necessarily entirely unique way - however pulled off effectively and not overwhealming the main story. All that one could wish for in a rainy day read....more
Sealed with a Kiss is the heart warming type of chick-lit. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and what’s evenAs seen on The Everyday Reader
Sealed with a Kiss is the heart warming type of chick-lit. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and what’s even better with this particular example of the genre is that the characters have a dose of reality to them.
Kate takes the opportunity to run off to a Scottish island after finally ending a going-nowhere long term relationship, taking a mysterious job as ‘girl friday.’ The island turns out to be just what she needed, with new friends and new sights giving her a new perspective. As a main character, she is everything you could wish for really. She has a humorous, slightly sarcastic voice that is very real and relatable. Her relationship woes are realistic – I’ve seen many friends in similar situations, stuck with a man that they don’t really love any more but don’t leave because being with them is easier than breaking it off. Overall, she’s the sort of person that you can imagine being your friend. The friends she soon makes on the island are just as good. Although they are introduced with a speed that initially left me a little confused as to who was who, they all quickly develop in to three dimensions. The dialogue between Kate and Susan (who is the most realistic portrayal of a young mother in a stable loving marriage that I’ve seen this year) is so much fun – again, it feels very much like a conversation you could be having with your own best friend on a girls night out.
The plot is fun, even if not particularly serious. Really, it’s about Kate finding herself as a person, with a man, some seals and a nasty ex (of the man’s, not Kate’s) thrown in just to provide a few complications. I’ve seen the tone of the book described in other reviews as breezy and that’s exactly it, but it’s breezy in a relax-in-the-bath-for-the-evening type way, not throw-book-at-wall-in-frustration-over-lack-of-substance type way. Lucas has a great writing style and doesn’t use the genre to compromise on language, the story flows smoothly while extending your vocabulary just the right amount.
I only have two slight qualms with Sealed with a Kiss. This first is Roderick, the ‘hero.’ He’s almost a bit much. . . gorgeous, genuine Scottish lord, heartbroken (in need of the right woman to heal him of course) and . . . . drumroll . . . . rescues seals. I’m not saying he’s not a realistic character, because like all the others in this novel, he comes across as warm and genuine. And he is certainly better than some of the other leading men I’ve seen in the genre. It’s just that it comparison to the realism Lucas installs everywhere else, he falls just slightly into the realms of stereotype.
The second qualm is the novel’s denouement, which relies on Kate taking someone she doesn’t like at their word, completely out of character for the relatively sensible girl we’ve seen throughout the rest of the story. These two qualm’s aren’t enough to stop Sealed with a Kiss being a gorgeous read though. If you read chick-lit/romance and own a kindle, there’s no excuse for not picking it up....more
Thanks to Netgalley and Random House Australia for an advanced reader copy of this title.
In 1941 Singapore, 17 year old Chinese-Singaporean Victoria Khoo lives a life of leisure and luxury. Her biggest concern is her dream to become the wife of childhood friend Sebastian and mistress of his family’s colonial mansion on Amber Road. Even when Sebastian returns from Cambridge to announce his engagement to the English Elizabeth Nightingale, Victoria’s dreams aren’t derailed. But war is coming and the course of the next 5 years will change all of their lives.
I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Amber Road. I think Victoria is one of the most irritating literary characters I have ever come across and it took strength as the reader not to hate her. She starts the novel as a spoilt young miss, for whom everything is ‘so, so’ something. She is obsessed with Sebastian to the point of ruin, even after a five year period of war where she is forced to grow up very fast and it is shown that Sebastian isn’t really the dream boat she’d made him into. It’s easy to see that the annoying qualities of the main character are a purposeful move by Anderson, but I think he may have taken it to far. For me, though by the end of the book Victoria has become a savvy, strong, purposeful, empathising character and I found a grudging respect for her, she never truly redeemed herself. It’s one of the few books I’ve ever been pleased about the main character not getting a truly happy ending. There were also certain elements of the book I never quite ‘got,’ such as the chapter prologues by Victoria’s brother George, who is a truly minor character, which never seemed necessary or to advance the plot.
On the other hand, Anderson’s imagery is really quite stunning. There were pieces of description that I had to pause and read twice just to fully take it in, such as the initial description of Emerald Hill, where Victoria lives for a time during the war. Anderson’s depiction of the Japanese invasion of Singapore was respectfully done, while truly highlighting the horrors of the period. Asia’s role in WWII is not a subject I know an awful lot about, and this book has made me want to find out more. Aside from Victoria, there are some well drawn and very memorable characters. The Australian salesman Joe was obviously going to be significant, but his character evolves in such a way that he still takes you by surprise. Elizabeth, Sebastian’s English fiance who for various reasons ends up being sheltered by Victoria for a majority of the war is a character that Anderson forces us to re-examine at the last moments in a truly horrifying way and her experience of the war is probably one that will stay with me longer than Victoria’s.
Overall, Amber Road is a readable book in a not-often touched setting, but might just have to many flaws to make it memorable....more
Honestly I love this series, but it really needs to get some new material!! This book just felt like a rehash of half a dozen other books retold in aHonestly I love this series, but it really needs to get some new material!! This book just felt like a rehash of half a dozen other books retold in a slightly different way. We've already heard about Sarah's relationship with her mother and how she hates Matt, Slyvia's relationship with Elizabeth, Claudia, James, Richard, Andrew when she was a child or young women. There was not a story in this book which I hadn't read already in another, albeit with slightly different detail, but the same conclusion. Giving it all a Christmas message doesn't disguise the fact that it's all the same. Perhaps I just haven't found the right book in the series yet, but there are so many parts of the story that remain untold (eg: Slyvias life after leaving Elm Creek and before returning) that it seems such a waste to simply retell everything that we've already read. I was severely disapointed and hope the next one I pick up improves!...more
Montaillou has been on my to-read mountain for over three years. I was recommended it by a professor at my university who through a twist of fate wasMontaillou has been on my to-read mountain for over three years. I was recommended it by a professor at my university who through a twist of fate was equally admired as an academic in the three subjects I majored in as an undergraduate (history, sociology and anthropology). Montaillou is a micro-history, pulling apart piece-by-piece the lives of the 250 or so inhabitants of a small alpine town in the early 1300′s. It’s made possible by Jacquest Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers, who recorded everyday conversation after conversation during the Cathar inquisition. Fortunately for us Jacquest became Pope Benedict XII, so his tireless (and perhaps tiresome) efforts made their way into the Vatican Library and eventually into the hands of Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie.
The book itself . . . is really something quite breathtaking. It’s in an academic guise, but Le Roy Ladurie lays out 14th century life in a way that is so vivid it’s like watching it all play out in front of your eyes. It shows just how much the world has changed (I’m quite glad that delousing is no longer an acceptable social activity) while simultaneously showing how human emotion and needs have not. The people Le Roy Ladurie focuses on could easily be people today: worrying about money, having affairs, getting tricked by their friends, marrying the right person, or the wrong one. Montaillou doesn’t hesitate to get down to the nitty gritty. There are whole chapters on sex and passages examining attitudes to incest and family violence that are treated with exactly the same academic gravity as is given to the chapter on conceptions of time and space. It gives the reader the most wonderfully complete picture. I loved having some preconceptions about the period confirmed (people really did carry their belongings on a stick over their shoulder) and some knocked over. This isn’t a work of historical interpretation or historiography. Le Roy Ladurie doesn’t really make conclusions and I’m grateful, it’s like he’s recognising that it’s not his job to do so. Instead, he advances from his unique, comprehensive source only so far as to group it in topics and put it in language that we can understand. Le Roy Ladurie also almost entirely ignores the inquisition itself which brought the source text into being, beyond references to characters being imprisoned or persecuted. On the one hand, sometimes I felt like I would have liked to know how it all related. On the other hand, it makes ethnography the true focus, resulting in a portrayal that is even more real.
What makes Montaillou even better is even though it’s a thoroughly serious and brilliant academic work, it reads like fiction. There are characters that we love, my favourite being the thinking-man’s shepherd Pierre Maury. There are characters we like less, like the lecherous priest Pierre Clergue. When I finished, I was sad to leave them and their stories behind. Like fiction, we don’t find out what happens to most of them after the Cathar inquisition, unless they died in prison.
I wish I hadn’t left it so long to get to Montaillou. It gives a unparalled perspective on a time we can’t ever know and one that we can trust is grounded in fact, rather than historical interpretation, without being stodgy or hidden in academic jargon. If you feel like picking this one up though, I’d suggest reading at least a Wikipedia page on the Cathars first....more