Thank you to the Oasis Book Club for providing me with a copy.
The Woman He Loved Before
What an absorbing read that tells of love, choices and the consequences of how the past affects the future! It reminds us that what you see isn’t always what you get!
The prologue is enough on it’s own to hook you in – as we know from reading the blurb, Jack was married to Eve before Libby and there are secrets. The prologue confirms that things might not be exactly what they seem. The minute you start reading the first page, you have a question that you need to know the answer to – which you know will only come to light the further along you read……………. The story itself starts with a car accident and I loved the way it dips back into the accident as the story unfolds making you wonder what you don’t know, what you are missing from the lives of these people.
The build up of Jack and Libby’s relationship is paced so that you don’t get bored and the characters are portrayed in-depth so you get to identify and empathise with them. The thread of Eve doesn’t weave in until half-way through the story. This could feel like you are reading two different stories but not only does the writing flow, the integration of Eve is seamless. I thought the way DK brings Eve into the present time was very clever. I found her skill in doing this also brought my mind on track ready to get back into Jack and Libby’s life as the previous part of their journey was reintroduced to the reader.
Once again, DK challenges our perceptions of the social issues in our culture, issues that we don’t want to acknowledge but are very real. She does it with such finesse but in such depth that you totally empathise.
I was expecting intrigue and wow, there is plenty of that which kept my interest all the way through. I made some guesses along the way and it turned out that in a way I was right but not in the way I expected. You will have to read the book to find out more …………………………
Dog Walks Man – A Six-Legged Odyssey
Thank you to Octopus Books for providing me with a copy of this fabulous book.
The blurb on the back cover is exactly what you get. I enjoyed reading every chapter in this book, not only because it relates to me as a dog owner and therefore walker but also because of the insights Zeaman shares. This is not a book just about the dog walk – there are also art snippets, other interesting facts about a multitude of things and the community in which the adventures take place. It should appeal to quite a broad spectrum of people and ages.
I found Zeaman’s journeying an accurate reflection of my own experience. The way he describes dogs, their personalities and what they get up to is so true. How he starts off close to home, walking round the block – and then starts to explore other possibilities/areas is also a reflection of how it is. Noticing nature and the changes in seasons is also another large part of being outdoors and something everyone can identify with if they take time to stop and notice the world we are living in.
At no point did I become bored with the narrative or rush my reading. The writing flows and cascades you along in a timeline of events, which is clear and logical. The descriptions and sharing are such that you feel an emotional connection to Pete and even to the area and community where the story unfolds. There is humour sprinkled throughout and one particular part of the story had me laughing so hard and for so long my family was becoming concerned about me ……………….. Another part of the story had me shedding tears in sorrow and feeling totally wrung out. I could feel the desolation as if it was mine.
I don’t think anything I can write would do ‘Dog Walks Man’ total justice. My husband (a reluctant reader) has now started reading it and thoroughly enjoying it which speaks volumes!
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Thank you to Windmill Books for supplying me with a review copy. This book had been on my list to read since I read the reviews when it was released in the US.
The story focuses on Rose and how, starting in childhood, she develops the ability to taste feelings in the food people make (and also where produce originates). The food maker is not aware of the emotions themselves and it leaves Rose inhabiting a totally unique world ………………but it is not all about her ‘special skill’. It is also a story about her environment – her mother and father’s relationship; her relationship with them both; her brother Joseph and his needs; her friends; school life, and later on her working life – which are all undeniably affected by her skill.
I was particularly intrigued with the idea of being able to ‘taste’ the feelings of people. I had come across the idea that preparing food in a loving and focussed way enhanced the vibrations of that food. I had also stumbled across synesthesia, where for example, some people see music on a screen in front of their face (a neurologically based condition). So it was no problem at all to see this as an actual possibility!
As a child, Rose comes across as very intuitive (even without tasting the emotions) and mature for her years. She often appears to take on the ‘adult’ role in the family. Communication (or lack of) plays a huge role in this family, which I think is fair to say is also true of how the majority of us interact within our own communities and so a reflection of the culture we live in.
The story is full of exquisite analogies, which brings the words to life. Throughout the book I had very vivid mental pictures and sometimes had to pause for them to take shape before I could continue reading. It is written in the first person, which works well in shaping Rose’s world but I did find it difficult to follow at times, for example, where there is dialogue and no speech marks.
‘Particular Sadness’ is definitely a good description of how I have been affected. Even though I felt distanced and not too involved with the characters (concentrating too much on the images!), it still had the power to dip my spirits. It is poignant and certainly at places feels like a wilderness.
There is eventually a positive slant portrayed to being able to taste emotions and I would like to have seen this developed and given more prominence. I would also have liked to have seen how or if Rose’s life balanced as she grew into herself. The ending was brilliant and made me reflect on Joseph – I rethought my perception of him and saw him in a different light.
Overall I would recommend this book to have a place on your bookshelf. It does deviate from the usual family saga but definitely worth reading with an open mind.
Breaking the Ice
I won this book in an email competition and I’m glad that I did!
Seeing past the spelling and punctuation, the story flows and the lead characters are easy to identify with. Their humanity comes across quite early on in the story. Samantha is a wonderful character and although she controls her life to the nth plus one degree there are times during crises when we get to see the real ‘Sam’ when her strength comes shining through. Having been a panic attack sufferer I can easily understand the triggers for Samantha and the irrationality they bring with them. It was refreshing to see this topic and for readers to see that Samantha is still able to live a life and soldier on regardless. Her down-to-earth character and vulnerability makes her likeable and her loyalty is an inspiration! Sister Chloe comes across as her alter ego but I do wonder what depths are hidden in her personality – after all, Jeremy appears to be a ‘stayer’!
The storyline is believable – the star of the ice show, Jimmy, is an ex-alcoholic who is learning new ways to look at life, the Civic Hall manager, Dave, who is a sleaze and doesn’t care about anyone but himself, a council that is more focussed on budget cuts than history and community – and not forgetting the stray cat, Gobby, who makes extra work for everyone.
I loved the way Baggot used ice skating as a bridge which can almost be seen as meditation in action. We all need one place where we can let go of life and what is expected of us and for Samantha it is on the ice.
If you follow @mandybagott on Twitter or follow her blog you will know what a sense of humour she has – this came through strongly in Breaking the Ice. At times I had to stop reading to have a chuckle to myself.
This love story will effect you emotionally so be warned! The laughter and the tears have me concluding it was time well spent and served it’s purpose. I feel like I have been on a journey alongside the characters and that life is certainly a brighter place.
A Discovery of Witches is the most enthralling novel I have read for a long while. It is definitely a story to lose yourself in and besides the magic/fantasy you would expect from this genre, it shares an insightful journey of the characters accepting who they are and becoming what that is.
Diana Bishop and Matthew Clermont’s story is much more than a meeting of witch and vampire and the resulting emotions and chaos that follows. It is also a meeting of the history of magic with the history of science. Harkness uses her expertise from these disciplines and weaves them into a spellbinding read. As an avid family history researcher I applaud Harkness crafting DNA into the story – the DNA which is quite a vital piece of information for our lead character to help her come to terms with her own journey. I love the fact that Matthew has been researching and trying to discover if humans, witches, vampires and daemons all came from the same ‘mother’ with mutations and adaptations in their genes.
The characters, relationships and the world they live in are utterly believable. We start in modern day Oxford but surrounded by history with Diana living a modern day ‘single’ life. When the story moves to France we meet Matthew’s family and are introduced to more history and many secrets. On Diana’s home turf in Madison we get to know Diana’s family and are introduced to the Bishop home which is quirky and hosts a gamut of ghosts.
With such a hefty tome you might understandably think there would be times when you would be bored – I didn’t find this at all. The way the writing flows leads you on from the foundation to each pivotal point. The timing of the next turn comes at exactly the right time to keep your imagination fired and you are led seamlessly on.
A Discovery of Witches is a debut novel and the first of a trilogy. I will eagerly await the second movement in this series so that I can again immerse myself in this world!