Tag Archives: Goodreads

Book Review: The Fragments by Toni Jordan

The FragmentsPic courtesy of Goodreads

Oh, how I adored this book!

Inga Karlson a phenomenally successful novelist in the late 1930’s died in a New York fire which also destroys all evidence of her latest and highly anticipated book. An exhibition of her life in the form of photos and fragments of burned manuscript comes to Brisbane. While strolling through the exhibition Caddie Walker, a bookseller and Inga fan, crosses paths with an elderly woman named Rachel who recites;

“And in the end, all we have are the hours and the days, the minutes and the way we bear them, the seconds spent on this earth and the number of them that truly mattered.”

Caddie is astounded when she realises the fragment of a burned page that survived ended the above sentence at ‘we bear them.’

The fact that Rachel can recite the next line leads her to believe the lost book may actually have survived or that this woman has somehow read it or knows something.  So ensues a chase through history to investigate and discover what really happened to Inga and what was so important in her last book. For Caddie the possibilities of her own book and Ph.D. about Inga are in her grasp.

This literary whodunit story is beautifully written and evocative of 1980’s Brisbane and 1930’s New York. Told in a dual time-line narrative the characters of Rachel and Caddie evolve wonderfully and then come together in a very satisfactory end. Rachel’s love story was gentle and beautifully told contrasting nicely with Caddie’s own difficult love life. But it’s not a love story, it’s a mystery portraying the ends people will go to destroy another person’s life. In Inga’s case, it was her work and her life while in Caddie’s case it was academic theft of her work by her ex-lover Professor.

The politics of academia is explored as is the politics of pre-WW2 German activity in America. It’s a fascinating examination and the novel is well-paced with unsettling tension. If you are after a page-turner, then grab this one.

A Perfect Stone: Special Offer For 5 Days Only

 

How quickly a year passes. It’s the first anniversary since the launch of A Perfect Stone. So what’s happened in the last twelve months?

The cover received a Gold Star Award in the E-book Cover Design Awards for December 2018.

It was shortlisted for Book of the Month in July 2019 by Discovering Diamonds in England.

The reviews have been wonderful:

‘the author wastes not a word in evoking sympathy for those most vulnerable members of society,’ Helen

‘I loved the writing and the fastidious research and simply couldn’t put it down.‘ Meredith

‘This is a wonderful book. It is informative, wrenching and hopeful. A must-read.‘ Sara

‘ a vivid and engaging novel that brims with believable characters and a great deal of observational wisdom.’ Clare

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41543705-a-perfect-stone

 

We’d like to celebrate by heavily discounting the ebook for the next five days only from Amazon.

 

 

 

Book Review: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

What an interesting book this is.

Meet Willa Knox, a freelance writer with adult children who had planned for a secure and comfortable future.  Instead, she finds that she and her academic husband are homeless and jobless. She inherits an old house in a place called Vineland. Her husband manages to pick up a short term job as a lecturer at a nearby University. The house is almost uninhabitable and the cost of renovations prohibitive. Added to her woes is her cantankerous, bigoted father- in- law who requires almost round the clock care. Her highly educated son, Zeke struggles under the weight of school debt and a new baby. Her high spirited daughter, Tig whom she barely understands comes home from Cuba and the house is filled with people all of whom have problems. Desperate for help to fix the house, Willa begins looking for funding from the Historical Preservation Society and finds out about the history, an earlier occupant and the utopian community set up as Vineland.

Rewind to the 1880s when Thatcher Greenwood finds himself living in the newly established Vineland with his young wife, mother- in- law and sister- in- law. He’s been appointed science teacher at the local high school and the discoveries by Darwin are causing an explosion of divisive thinking. Thatcher comes to loggerheads with the Creationist and conservative Principal.

“Thatcher thought of the riot he’d seen in the Boston square, the scarecrow Darwin hanging from the lamppost, the crowd terrified witless at the prospect of shedding comfortable beliefs and accepting new ones.”

The parallel between the two timelines is fascinating. Conservative America in 2016 where climate change is denied by the powers that be, sits side by side in Darwinist America of the 1880s.  The founder of the utopian Vineland, Captain Landis had established and controlled a community of Christian ideals. Science comes along to disrupt and beleaguer the conservatives in both timelines.

The common bond between Willa and Thatcher is that they feel left out, unsheltered and stuck in a crumbling mess. In the mix is Mary Treat the next-door neighbour who was a real-life scientist of the 1880s in her own right, add in a mix of suffragettes and murder and things really get interesting.

The characters are fascinating and well developed but I think the star of the show is Tig, the younger daughter. I loved the way Tig became the teacher and almost a saviour for her mother who sees her daughter in a very new light.  The writing is very thought-provoking. Sometimes I found the scientific discourse on plants and animals a little on the slow side, and for some, this might be a little difficult. But my advice is to take it in, think about it and enjoy. This book will keep giving long after you’ve finished it.

Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

I had mixed feelings about this book. The setting seems contemporary except young fifteen-year-old girls suddenly acquire the ability to kill, maim and injure people via a skein in their collar bone which gives them the capacity to have electrical power. Girls around the world begin using it and showing older women how to harness it. Women begin saving those suffering from sex trafficking, exploitation, and abuse of all types and the power unleashes the ability for women everywhere to stand up for themselves. The world tilts as men try to grapple with the consequences.

It sounds like a tantalising read and it’s exciting to explore where the world could be if power was reversed. We see it through the eyes of a young man, two young women and a female Senator who has teenage girls. The first half of the book was fascinating as the power shifted.

If you’re expecting a utopian ending you aren’t going to get it. The world is flipped because of gender but guess what, nothing really changes. Men are scared to walk the streets, they’re violated and abused. There’s still wars and craziness. And it’s this idea that I failed to embrace and why the second half of the book seemed almost so far-fetched as to be laughable. The characters weren’t particularly likable and the plot seemed to be a series of events. For me, it seemed as if the top ten women’s issues in the world were brainstormed so the author could get each one down in the book and I began to find this tedious.

Nevertheless, it is thought-provoking to wonder what the world would be like if power changed. I’d like to think it would be better, that women would have empathy and understanding to make sure the world was a better place instead of spiralling into revenge. But Alderman thinks it would be just as bad and I think that’s a pity.

Book Review: Islands by Peggy Frew

I loved Islands. There’s a rhythm of sadness in this beautifully written book as we are led into the lives of various characters and their points of view told in a mix of timelines. The style may not be to everyone’s taste. But my advice is to be patient and perhaps take time to read it to remember everyone.

There was a house on a hill in the city, and it was full, of us, our family, but then it began to empty. We fell out. We made a mess.
We draped ourselves in blame and disappointment and lurched around, bumping into each other. Some of us wailed and shouted; some of us barely made a sound. None of us was listening, or paying attention. And in the middle of it all you, very quietly, were gone.

The Worth family of John and Helen and their young two daughters Junie and Anna could be like any family until Helen has an affair and leaves John. The family begins to splinter slowly in the aftermath of divorce, then completely disintegrates when fifteen-year-old Anna, a troubled and rebellious teen, goes missing. Not knowing how to deal with Anna, Helen decides to give her daughter space, after all, she has taken off before. Blame and tensions arise when Helen fails to report her missing daughter for three days. The unresolved grief about Anna overhangs their lives for years to come.

The landscape is Phillip Island and the imagery is evocative. The house where John’s parents holidayed then retired to is ever-present in the memories of each of the main characters. This imagery is spot on. I know, because I spent my own late teens in a coastal town nearby where my parents owned a holiday house.


“The bald hills crowd in and let go again, and he sails down the last stretch, the flat water below reflecting a half-moon. Past the clustered darkness of the San Remo shops and over the bridge with its tall lights, empty of their daytime perching gulls.”

There are other characters, some of whom you wonder about until the end of their chapter when the connection is revealed.

It’s a remarkable book not just because of the writing but the raw emotion is so moving it stays with you for a long time. Frew’s talent is incredible and I’ll be checking out the rest of her books.

Book Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

 

Anna Kerrigan is twelve when she meets Dexter Styles, a man with a shady history in the underworld but with a respectable façade. A couple of years later, Anna’s father disappears. Anna, along with her mother and disabled sister, is devastated.

At nineteen Anna meets Dexter Styles again and is convinced he knows what happened to her father and proceeds to find out. This book is so much more than the intrigue of Anna’s father. Set in New York during the Second World war, Anna pushes boundaries as a woman to become a deep sea diver repairing warships.

The book is thoroughly researched and very detailed. For some, the intricate detail around what was happening in the Brooklyn Naval Yard might hold a lot more fascination than it did for me.

But I did enjoy Anna’s story. The description of her being encased in a two-hundred-pound dress and metal helmet was incredible and had me taking deep gulps of air.

“Then she was inside, encased in a humid metallic smell that was almost a taste. They screwed the base of the helmet into the breastplate like a lightbulb fitting a socket. A crushing weight bore down upon Anna through the collar’s sharp edges. She writhed under it, trying to move away or unseat it. There were two raps on top of the helmet, and the round front window popped open, admitting a shock of cool air.”

The battle Anna had with authorities to allow her to participate in a male-oriented world was compelling as was the love and care she had for her sister Lydia. We were given glimpses of her relationships with other women too but for the most part, it was her relationships with her father and Dexter which dominated the plot.

However, it almost seemed as if the research needed to find a home no matter what and I think when the narrative changed to the points of view of these two men I found this part jarring. The two male characters weren’t likable enough to hold me and I would have preferred the story to have stuck to Anna.

All in all, the book was good enough to hold my attention but not enough to rave about in glowing terms for me.

Book Review: The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

The Ruin is McTiernan’s debut novel and what a novel it is. It’s a cracking read, fast-paced which hooks the reader in and never lets her go until the climactic end.

It begins in 1993 in Galway, Ireland when as a new recruit, Reilly is sent to a scene in a lonely broken down old house to find two abused and starved children, Maude and Jack alone with their dead mother. Twenty years later, Jack is found dead, supposedly suicide… or is it? Reilly uncovers secrets, lies, and corruption and struggles to trust anyone, most of all his own colleagues.

I confess to reading this crime series featuring Cormac Reilly a little out of sequence. The second novel The Scholar was enthralling and I scratched my head about the inclusion of Carrie O’Halloran’s character but now having read this novel, it all makes perfect sense. You can check out my review here. (https://sckarakaltsas.com/2019/05/29/book-review-the-scholar-by-dervla-mc-tiernan/)

Don’t get me wrong. The two novels are strong enough to stand on their own. But if you do read them in sequence, the nuances of the common characters become clearer.
There are two points of view, Reilly and Jack’s girlfriend, Aisling. I enjoyed all the characters which I thought were drawn well. Aisling, an ambitious doctor struggles with her grief and her scenes were particularly heartfelt. Reilly, at times, floundered and the reader felt as much on the outer as he did. I also enjoyed the inner workings and politics of the police department too. I did wonder about Reilly’s method of investigation; why didn’t he go to Maude immediately and ask her questions first, instead of going to the old next door neighbour? But what do I know? I’m not a detective.

Yes, this one is very difficult to put down and there’s lots in it. I’d definitely read another of McTiernan’s books. Check it out.