Saturday, July 13, 2019

Goodreads/Pop sugar 2019 reading challenge - Part 2

Here we go, part 2 for your perusal. I think I can share books read direct from Goodreads, I might try that out each time I finish a book, it'll save big long posts like this...I hope.

A very young woman's first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate...An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.
Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls...
But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.
For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

My Review ★★★
I liked it much more than I thought I would. I sometimes struggle with this Gothic style of writing. The only way I can think of how to describe it, is that it's a bit like driving on a motorway in the dark, the road ahead is clear but then you come across some road works and a contraflow system, you have to slow right down to navigate your way through all of those orange and white cones which don't seem to make sense at first, but if you slow right down it all becomes clear and you are out on the open road again and on your way. A bit like the flow of this book, sometimes it flowed well and then not, I would have to read it over, in fact I read it out loud, that really helped.
A spooky little story which I would think at the time of writing, caused quite a stir.

Challenge: Pop sugar - A ghost story; A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom (I took a bit of a liberty here with this one, if I find a better book to cover it then I'll change it)

After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he's still in good health, and in one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isn't interested (and he'd like a bit more control over his vodka consumption). So he decides to escape. He climbs out the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey, involving, among other surprises, a suitcase stuffed with cash, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly hot-dog stand operator, and an elephant (not to mention a death by elephant).
It would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but Allan has a larger-than-life backstory: Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, but he has actually played a key role in them. Starting out in munitions as a boy, he somehow finds himself involved in many of the key explosions of the twentieth century and travels the world, sharing meals and more with everyone from Stalin, Churchill, and Truman to Mao, Franco, and de Gaulle. Quirky and utterly unique, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared has charmed readers across the world.

My review ★★★★
This was such good fun to read, thoroughly enjoyed it. There were parts where it did get a bit silly and dragged a bit, but take it at what it is, a bit of humorous fun, it's not meant to change the world, although Allan did! 

Challenge: Pop sugar - A book set in Scandinavia 

No sooner had Chris Stewart set eyes on El Valero than he handed over a check. Now all he had to do was explain to Ana, his wife, that they were the proud owners of an isolated sheep farm in the Alpujarra Mountains in Southern Spain. That was the easy part.

Lush with olive, lemon, and almond groves, the farm lacks a few essentials—running water, electricity, an access road. And then there's the problem of rapacious Pedro Romero, the previous owner who refuses to leave. A perpetual optimist, whose skill as a sheepshearer provides an ideal entrée into his new community, Stewart also possesses an unflappable spirit that, we soon learn, nothing can diminish. Wholly enchanted by the rugged terrain of the hillside and the people they meet along the way—among them farmers, including the ever-resourceful Domingo, other expatriates and artists—Chris and Ana Stewart build an enviable life, complete with a child and dogs, in a country far from home.

My Review: ★★★★   
I've read a few books of this genre, this was as enjoyable as the others. Am amusing, easy read.
Challenge: Pop sugar - A book written by a musician (Original drummer and founding member of Genesis) 

After twenty years spent mastering the art of dressmaking at couture houses in Paris, Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage returns to the small Australian town she was banished from as a child. She plans only to check on her ailing mother and leave. But Tilly decides to stay, and though she is still an outcast, her lush, exquisite dresses prove irresistible to the prim women of Dungatar. Through her fashion business, her friendship with Sergeant Farrat—the town’s only policeman, who harbors an unusual passion for fabrics—and a budding romance with Teddy, the local football star whose family is almost as reviled as hers, she finds a measure of grudging acceptance. But as her dresses begin to arouse competition and envy in town, causing old resentments to surface, it becomes clear that Tilly’s mind is set on a darker design: exacting revenge on those who wronged her, in the most spectacular fashion. 

My review ★★★  
I wasn't sure about this at first. The book is divided into three parts, the first part was a bit confusing, there were so many characters to keep up with. Parts two & Three improved greatly, an enjoyable read. I wasn't particularly invested in any of the characters to be honest, the town they all lived in would be the place to keep driving through, very fast, no matter how much you needed a pee or gas!

 Challenge: Pop sugar - Two books that share the same title

Monsieur Claude Reynaud is famous throughout France for making fabulous clothes. Living in the quiet village of Senlis, he thinks himself too old to change, too old to find love. Then, in a cloud of spring blossom, Mademoiselle Valentine de Verlay arrives on his doorstep.

My review  
Oh dear, this really was awful, a bit like a badly acted play. I only kept reading it because a reading challenge I'm doing required two books of the same title. It had me shout out a few times, I couldn't possibly repeat what those words were!
I usually drop my read books at our village cafe where they have a bookcase full of books to swap. I'm rather reluctant to leave it there, I'm not sure I could put another person through that kind of torture!

Challenge: Pop sugar - Two books that share the same title; A debut novel 

Frank, no ordinary sixteen-year-old, lives with his father outsIde a remote Scottish village. Their life is, to say the least, unconventional. Frank's mother abandoned them years ago: his elder brother Eric is confined to a psychiatric hospital; and his father measures out his eccentricities on an imperial scale. Frank has turned to strange acts of violence to vent his frustrations. In the bizarre daily rituals there is some solace. But when news comes of Eric's escape from the hospital Frank has to prepare the ground for his brother's inevitable return - an event that explodes the mysteries of the past and changes Frank utterly.
The Wasp Factory is a work of horrifying compulsion: horrifying, because it enters a mind whose realities are not our own, whose values of life and death are alien to our society; compulsive, because the humour and compassion of that mind reach out to us all. A novel of extraordinary originality, imagination and comic ferocity.

My review: ★★★★
Sick, twisted, macabre, brilliant. I went into this thinking the worst and came out the other side rather blown away by it to be honest. Once I'd picked it up I couldn't put it down. Not a lot else got done in the house today, however I did manage to stop to eat, make cups of tea and to pee. And just so it didn't look like I'd been a lazy tart all day, I quickly run the vacuum cleaner around once I'd finished. 

Challenge: BBC big read 

Edwina Spinner has lived in the same house for over fifty years. It used to be a busy, crowded family home but now Edwina lives alone and it has grown too big for her. She has decided to sell it.

The young estate agent who comes to value the house sees potential. Knock down a few walls, add a wet room. 'People like a project.' But as Edwina takes him from room to room, she is transported back to her old life as a young mother. Back to her first husband Ollie and their twins, James and Rowena. Back to lies and dark secrets and to a stepson whose name Edwina cannot even bear to speak aloud.

As Edwina's story unravels she is revealed as a complex and intriguing person. Not just the 'frail old lady' trapped in her dated house, but a woman who has lived an extraordinary life, full of love and tragedy. Why is she now so alone? What happened to Edwina's family all those years ago?

My review: ★★★★
I really, really liked this, our book club choice this month. Well written, great story line and believable characters. 

May's book club choice

Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterwork of honor and injustice in the deep South ― and the heroism of one man in the face of blind and violent hatred.
One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, served as the basis of an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country.
A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father ― a crusading local lawyer ― risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

My review: ★★★★★
My second read of this novel, enjoyed it as before, if not more this time. Go set a watchman next.

Challenge: BBC big read; Pop sugar - A book you see someone reading in a movie (Seen in The perks of being a wallflower)

Go Set a Watchman is set during the mid-1950s and features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand both her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.

My review: ★★★★
This is a re-read, I've given it a 4 star as I did when I read it before. I think I appreciated it better second time around. Also I read it immediately after a re-read of To kill a mockingbird. Go set a watchman was rejected by publishers at the time, I can see why, it wasn't quite there, the characters not so well defined, the plot not as polished as in TKAM. I found it particularly interesting to see that many passages were re-used in TKAM, word for word it seems. So Harper Lee was on to a good thing, it just took a rejection to get it right, if not perfect. Some of GSAW did not tally up with TKAM's story lines, she clearly adapted and improved upon them, for the better I feel. The characters, such as Scout and Atticus in GSAW lacked depth, but in TKAM they were huge. I know that some found the later book somewhat disappointing and I fully understand why, but try reading them one after the other and you'll come to realise, as I do, that they belong together.

Challenge: Pop sugar; I put this as a book published posthumously, but now I realise it wasn't! Bugger! Need to rethink that one..... 

England, 1930s. Christopher Banks has become the country's most celebrated detective, his cases the talk of London society. Yet one unsolved crime has always haunted him; the mysterious disappearance of his parents, in Old Shanghai, when he was a small boy. Now, as the world lurches towards total war, Banks realises the time has come for him to return to the city of his childhood and at last solve the mystery - that only by his doing so will civilisation be saved from the approaching catastrophe.

Moving between London and Shanghai of the inter-war years, When We Were Orphans is a story of memory, intrigue and the need to return; of a childhood vision of the world surviving deep into adulthood, indelibly shaping and distorting a person's life.

My review: ★★★★  
Clever book, I wasn't entirely sure of Christopher, never quite trusting his version of events I started to think him a bit of a wally. I did, at one stage, think I was losing the plot and interest, then suddenly the whole thing just made perfect sense. Good book, very well written in what I call, proper, proper English.

June's book club choice
Challenge: Pop sugar; A book author from Asia 

Celia Lashlie, justice reform campaigner and bestselling author , brings her powerful insight to the problems of families trapped in a spiral of crime, poverty and abuse. She points to the reasons behind why New Zealand's rates of imprisonment are so disastrously high, what the politicians and social service organisations could do to improve the plight of children in at risk families and why the system should protect be protecting them. Lashlie uses the case studies of Maka Renata and Bailey Junior Kurariki as examples of institutional neglect. She exposes the environment in which they live and the pedestals upon which the media and society place these people, and , and the negative attitudes of many within our bureaucracy work against the efforts of the children's mother to be the best mother she can. The Power of Mothers is a wake-up call to voter and politician, parent and grandparent, social agency and lobby group alike. We must do more than build prisons to hold the children we fail, now.  

My review: ★★★★  
I selected 4 stars, really liked it, "like" probably isn't the best word to use. It was however a very insightful book, very shocking and upsetting at times. Celia doesn't hold back on her opinions concerning New Zealand's correction facilities and/or Child Youth and family services, as they were known at the time of publishing.
I won 6 copies of this book for our bookclub, it made for some very interesting comments and observations.
It's a must read for anyone working or choosing to work in either of the mentioned services

 I want to come back to this book and dedicate a post to it.

In 1951, a young woman from Baltimore died of cancer. Her death changed medical science for ever. Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer whose cancer cells - taken without her knowledge - became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first 'immortal' human tissue grown in culture, HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta herself remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey in search of Henrietta's story, from the 'coloured' ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live, and struggle with the legacy of her cells. Full of warmth and questing intelligence, astonishing in scope and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences. 

My review: ★★★★★
A truly remarkable book that just about broke my heart. It reads like some kind of horror story but you know that it's all true. It left me feeling raw and very emotional, at times I was just downright bloody angry, I can only imagine how her family felt. Henrietta Lacks, remember her name because you might have treatment one day that saves your life, and there's a good chance that the cure has something to with her cells. The world owes her a huge debt.

June's book club choice, it's also been on my to read list for a long time. I now own a copy. 

If you got through the last two posts unscathed then well done, if not then I hope I've cured your insomnia 😁😝