What a wonderful and charming book this is. Written in 1932, Greenbanks tells the story of the Ashton family spanning from around 1910 to 1925. It isWhat a wonderful and charming book this is. Written in 1932, Greenbanks tells the story of the Ashton family spanning from around 1910 to 1925. It is centered around the house, Greenbanks, in the Lancashire village of Elton, and revolves mainly around Louisa Ashton, Mother and Grandmother. Louisa has five (very different) children who have all started to make their own way in the world too and so Louisa dotes on her 4 year old Granddaughter, Rachel. Greenbanks may be a lovely, beautifully written book about a family in a grand old house but there is plenty of room for sibling rivalry, illegitimate births, divorce, tyranical fathers and heartache. In fact all these are done so well that I was in awe of how well Whipple understood human emotion such as depression, jealousy, shame and love.
The book is set at during the early part of the last century when ideas and ideals are shifting and in particular Whipple explores the changing roles of women at this time. Louisa is the gentle, kind head of Greenbanks (after her philandering husband dies) but her daughters are exploring new territories that are still thought of as a huge embarassment to the gossiping folks of Elton. Daughters Letty and Laura both carving out new paths for themselves and lodger Kate Barlow still lives the shame and stigma of having an illegitimate child all those years ago. Granddaughter Rachel, much to her Father Ambrose’s profound disappointment, is intelligent and is desperate to continue her studies at University when she grows up, but Ambrose wants a dutiful daughter who will greet him at the door and “take his hat”.
The character of Ambrose Harding is actually one of my favourite characters despite his prigishness and I found him (unintentionally on his part) very amusing: he is so old-fashioned and is constantly baffled as to why people don’t behave the way he expects and wants them to.
“And he did not believe in all this education for women; in fact, he considered knowledge definitely unbecoming to them. It destroyed their charm; they did not listen so well if they knew too much.”
“That’s what this modern education did for them. These modern girls, smoking, riding motor-bicycles, flying airplanes, breaking speed records; they would do anything for notice. What else could it be for? Men did these things for the love of them, to try them out, or to advance knowledge, experience, but women did them for notice, just to get into the papers, to be made a fuss of.”
The quotes made me laugh, especially when I think of how times have changed now. But even with Ambroses sexist rants I could still sympathise with him to a degree as he was born in an age where men were head of the house and no one (especially a wife or daughter) would ever question him. His three other children (all boys) were a huge disappointment to him also as they didn’t follow the direction he wanted them to follow and went their own way; Ambrose felt unloved and and couldn’t understand why. Such a brilliantly drawn character.
A final quote that made me laugh (because it could have been me saying it) Iwas when Letty who in frustration cries:
“”Is there something wrong with me?” she asked in alarm. “This is no more than other women have to put up with. Why don’t I like housekeeping?”"
Verdict: I highly recommend this gorgeous book. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea (or in the bath, or in the postoffice queue….pretty much anywhere really). Loved it!
When I began this book I have to admit that I didn't think the three words I'd be using to describe it would be drama, excitement and intrigue . In faWhen I began this book I have to admit that I didn't think the three words I'd be using to describe it would be drama, excitement and intrigue . In fact, I really had no intention of reading this book at all any time soon as a friend of mine had to study it in school as a teenager and told me it's the worst book she's ever read and that had stayed with me and filed into the "don't bother" part of my brain. So then, just before Christmas I saw or heard something about this book and that it was about a man who sells his wife and baby daughter at a fayre and immediately I thought that sounds intriguing and off I popped to pick up a copy. How glad I am that I did - The Mayor of Casterbridge has turned out to be one of my favourite books! I loved it!
Michael Henchard is a young man of twenty-one and walking the countryside of Dorset with his wife, Susan, and their baby girl, Elizabeth-Jane, looking for work. They decide to rest a while in a small village where there is a fayre and several drinks later, Michael starts loudly asking for bidders to buy his wife. After accepting 5 guineas from a sailor he wakes later to realise that they have actually gone and when he realises what he has done he swears not to drink a drop more of alcohol for another 21 years (as long as he has so far lived). He starts to make enquiries about where the sailor and his family may have gone but nobody knows who he is and Michael is too ashamed of his conduct to search too effectively and he sets off on the road once more, alone.
The story then fast-forwards eighteen years and Michael is now the Mayor of Casterbridge (modelled on Dorchester in Dorset). It's difficult to say more about what happens next as I really don't want to give it away - this book is much better read if you know nothing about the characters and what is to come yet as there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. The fuller title for The Mayor of Casterbridge is The Life and Death of a Man of Character, and that is really what this book is based around - Michael Henchard and his fall and rise (and fall again). The main cast of characters is small enough that we really get to know them well and care about them: Susan and Elizabeth-Jane become part of the story again as does a Scottish traveller looking for work, Donald Farfrae and a young lady, Lucetta Templeman, who gets caught up in something that will come back to haunt her in a big way later in the book.
Henchard really is a man of character, as the title suggests, and he is prone to jealousy, impulsiveness and malice but in turn he can be caring, warm and reflective meaning that the reader never hates him, but actually feels for him as he is his own harshest critic. What astounded me was Hardy's understanding of human nature: time and time again I was amazed that he had managed to get it so spot on; to really make me feel as the characters did and understand why they behaved the way they did.
What I really loved about this book, though, was the drama. This is why I love all the Victorian books I have read so far - they're like watching a soap-opera. The Mayor of Casterbridge has it all - love, hate, greed, jealousy, deceit and repentence. And watch out for a scene involving a skimmington-ride (what the Victorians - and those before them - used to do to humiliate people, particularly adulterous women or women who beat their husbands which involved a very rowdy and public parade with effigies of the persons concerned being ridden through town on the back of donkeys) which has extremely tragic consequences.
Verdict: I heart Thomas Hardy! This is the second book of his that I have read (the first being Tess) and I now fully intend to gorge myself on the rest this year. Forget your pre-conceptions about dry and dull Victorian literature - this book has it all! A firm favourite now and one I will definitely read again at some point. ...more
Up until about a week ago I hadn't even heard of this book. Then I saw that it had won both Best YA book and Best Book of 2011 on Goodreads as voted bUp until about a week ago I hadn't even heard of this book. Then I saw that it had won both Best YA book and Best Book of 2011 on Goodreads as voted by the members. I was curious about this book that hadn't reached my radar yet and upon reading the reviews discovered that it was being hailed as the new Hunger Games (which is one of my all-time favourite books). A day or so later I happened to be in a bookshop (what are the chances? Okay, I jest, I am almost a permanent fixture in bookshops) and saw a copy of Divergent staring out at me from the shelves and I just had to have it.
This is a world sometime in the future and set in a city that I believe was once Chicago (as the now-abandoned Sears Tower is based there). Every person in this city belongs to one of five factions: Abnegation (selflessness), Erudite (learning), Amity (kindness), Candor (honesty) or Dauntless (bravery). Beatrice Prior (or Tris as she becomes known) is a member of Abnegation and the book starts with the day that she and every other 16 year old from all factions undergo a test to see which faction they will belong to from then on: if they chose a faction other than the one that they were born into it means betraying their families and potentially never seeing them again). However, Tris's test doesn't turn out quite as she had expected as her results mean that she could choose one of 3 factions. She is told in confidence that this is because she is a Divergent but she must not tell anyone, even her family, as this is an extremely dangerous thing to be. On the day of the choosing ceremony, Tris abandons her family to join the Dauntless faction and that is where the adventure starts.
I thought the idea of this was brilliant and I was excited to find out about the factions and how Tris's choice to join Dauntless would affect her. However, the more I read the more disillusioned I became: I never felt that I got a proper sense of the city or why it was like that or why the factions had come about and I would have liked to have learnt more. Also, as the book moved along I became more and more frustrated at why each person would only fit into one of the factions; afterall I don't know anyone who is honest but can't be kind or intelligent with it or brave but can't be honest etc. I would expect that the majority of people would fit into more than one category - I certainly would; in fact I think I could fit into all of them (except Dauntless ironically - particularly after reading what they had to go through).
As well as some other minor annoyances, I did have one huge dislike too and that was the violence that went on for chapters and chapters. Each faction had to train its new recruits to pass an initiations (and those who fail are kicked out and become known as factionless and have to live on the streets), and despite knowing that the Dauntless faction was all about bravery, I found most of their training completely over the top and unsavoury to read. Fighting each other until someone passes out, throwing knives at each other, almost killing someone to test their mettle: I accept that some of this may have been necessary to show us what they recruits had to go through but for it to go on for so long and to be so brutal left a really bad taste in my mouth.
I would really have liked to know more about the other factions and how the city came to be like this but we got little information about anything outside the Dauntless compound until the end. Is this just in one city? Are there other cities exactly the same with their own compounds and set of factions? None of that was even addressed, never mind answered. I know this is the first book in a trilogy so maybe some of this will be answered in the future books, but even a little teaser or snippets of info would have been good.
Despite my little rants, I sort of enjoyed this book. I understand that it is the debut novel written by a 23 year old and that has to be commended. I hope that the books become tighter and more polished as the series continues and I am curious enough to want to read them to see what happens.
Verdict: Some major disappointments and it certainly is no Hunger Games (not in my mind at least). Aside from my ramblings though, it is still a fast-paced adventure story that sucked me right in for large amounts of it and should certainly appeal to the masses.
This book is truly magical. It hooked me from page one and did not let me go until I closed the final pages, and it was with a heavy heart that I saidThis book is truly magical. It hooked me from page one and did not let me go until I closed the final pages, and it was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to this wonderful place and its small cast of characters.
Jack and Mabel arrive in Alaska in 1920 to make a new home for themselves and to get away from the terrible heartache of losing their only child at birth ten years before. Their sense of loss and grief is palpable and their sadness at realising that they are also losing each other is felt clearly through those opening pages. Just as things seem to be coming to a head, Jack and Mabel - in a rare moment of companionship - build a snowgirl together when the first snows of that winter arrive at their homestead. They dress it in mittens and a scarf and use the juice of berries to give some colour to its lips. The next morning, not only is their snowgirl gone, but there are little footprints leading away from the mound of snow and the couple start to be convinced that they have seen a little girl in a blue coat dashing between the trees in the snow, followed by a red fox.
What follows is a truly captivating and spell-binding tale of a little girl, who we come to find out is called Faina, and her place in the rebuilding of the lives of Jack and Mabel. As the elderly couple open their hearts once again, Mabel remembers a book that her father used to read to her when she was a child: a snow child that appears at the house of a childless couple and, despite many re-tellings and different endings over the years, always ends with the little girl melting back into the snow, and Mabel comes to dread the day that Faina will leave them too. Faina herself is not quite tamable and always slightly out of reach of the couple and it is through her that the reader is treated to such a feast of beauty and nature and landscape. Just wondferful.
Istill can't quite believe that this is a debut novel and beacuse of this, I cannot wait to see what else she comes up with in the future.
Verdict: Wow, just wow. My favourite book of 2011 and I am head over heels in love with it. ...more
I have been a huge fan of Lisa Gardner after discovering her books about 2 years ago, and I particularly like the Detective D.D. Warren series of whicI have been a huge fan of Lisa Gardner after discovering her books about 2 years ago, and I particularly like the Detective D.D. Warren series of which Catch Me is the latest. Her books always start with an intriguing prologue that grabs you by the throat but actually gives away very little meaning that the rest of the book is up to you to work out. I still have a lot of Gardners’ books to read (yay!) so I can only speak for the ones that I have read so far, but what I have found (and liked) is that there is usually an ureliable narrator at the helm. In some cases this is deliberate (for reasons that become apparant later on) and in some cases (i.e. Catch Me) it is because the narrator can’t actually remember any more than she’s telling us so we are muddling through in the same way that she is.
Charlie Grant (or Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant as she insists upon being called) tracks down Boston Detective D.D. Warren on 17th January to ask for help: she thinks she only has 4 days left until she will be murdered. On the last two January 21sts her two best friends, Randi and Jackie, were murdered a year apart and Charlie thinks she will be next. As well as working on what appears to be a serial killer of paedophiles , D.D. is intrigued enough to check out Charlie’s story at the same time, and becomes more so when it appears that the two cases may be linked…
You don’t have to have read all (or indeed any) of this series to be able to get full enjoyment out of this book (I have read only the latest 4 which means I can now go back to D.D’s roots and see where she started out) but I do like the fact that I have seen her character develop. Once hard-nut workaholic D.D. is now mother to 10 week old Jack and living with partner Alex and for once actually looking forward to getting home after a shift. Old habbits die hard though and D.D. ins’t one to let a case go cold and her spidey-senses start tingling like mad towards the end of this one.
What I also liked about this particular book was that characters from some of her other series’ had cameos too; in fact quite a few of them did. Again, if you’re not familiar with Gardner’s books you wouldn’t even notice (and it wouldn’t spoil the book in any way) but for fans this was actually a real treat.
Verdict: One of my favourites. I ripped through it in no time at all and enjoyed every page. Highly recommended for crime fiction fans.
I have been a fan of Lisa Gardner’s books for a while now, but for some reason she doesn’t seem to be as well known in the UK as other crime writers.I have been a fan of Lisa Gardner’s books for a while now, but for some reason she doesn’t seem to be as well known in the UK as other crime writers. I hope that changes soon as her books really are great! I am especially loving this series starring Detective D.D. Warren who is one of Boston’s top homicide Detectives.
Love You More is a gripping thriller that opens with State Tropper Tessa Leoni being arrested for the murder of her husband and the disappearance of her 6 year old daughter. Tessa’s narrative takes the reader back and forth through her relationship with Brian and their last moments together and it becomes clear early on that she may not be a reliable narrator, as her story often changes, but why does she do this? The reason does become apparant nearer the end – and it’s a good one! Interspersing Tessa’s story is Detective D. D. Warren and her race to find missing six-year-old Sophie. D.D. is a great character – she’s fiesty, funny (without trying) and kick-ass; I love her. The switching between the two perspectives keeps the plot fast-paced and interesting too, espcially as you are wondering who to believe most of the time.
Verdict: As with all the previous books of Gardner that I have read, this one is equally as addictive and has twists and turns a-plenty.
What a strange yet strangely appealing book from this Japanese author, Keigo Higashino. I have read several novels by Japanese authors over the yearsWhat a strange yet strangely appealing book from this Japanese author, Keigo Higashino. I have read several novels by Japanese authors over the years and they have all had similar styles in that they have been sparsely written with barely a word wasted, yet they have all packed an almighty punch (without even trying it somehow seems). The Devotion of Suspect X is a clever crime book. There is a murder but no blood and gutts, a crime but no evidence. The killing takes place in the first few pages of the book and we all know straight away who did it: what happens immediately afterwards is what keeps the reader on their toes.
The story is centred around Yasuko, a single mum who works in a lunch-box shop and whos unsavoury ex-husband tries to worm his way back into her life. Within pages, said ex-husband is dead and entering from stage left is strange nextdoor neighbour Ishigami, who is a genius mathemetician with rather a large crush on Ysasuko. On the case of the body dumped in an oil drum by the river is Tokyo Detective Kusangi who vents his frustrations about the case to friend Yukawa who happens to be a genius physician and whom knew Ishigami at University. What follows is clash of the geniuses: not in an action-packed, race-against-time way, but more like a battle of brains over a quiet game of chess. While this was a great way to help the reader unravel what happened, I have to admit that about ¾ of the way through the book I started to become a little bored with the perpetual cat-and-mouse game between Yukawa and Ishigami: I remember sighing and uttering “get on with it” at one point. However, not long after I was rewarded with an almighty wollop at the end that I didn’t see coming. And then, just as I’d relaxed again, I was left staring at an ending that made my mouth go into this shape….. O