29 Oct 2014

STAR OF THE SEA.

STAR OF THE SEA by JOSEPH O'CONNOR.

SOURCE: A re-read off our shelves.

BACK COVER BLURB: In the bitter winter of 1847, from an Ireland torn by injustice and natural disaster, the Star of the Sea sets sail for New York.

On board are hundreds of fleeing refugees. Among them are a maidservant with a devastating secret, bankrupt Lord Meredith and his family, an aspiring novelist, a maker of revolutionary ballads, all braving the Atlantic in search of a new home. All are connected more deeply than they can possibly know. But a camouflaged killer is stalking the decks, hungry for the vengeance that will bring absolution.

The twenty-six-day journey will see many lives end, others begin afresh. In a spellbinding story of tragedy and healing, the further the ship sails towards the Promised Land, the more her passengers seem moored to a past which will never let them go.

FIRST SENTENCE {Prologue: The Monster}: All night long he would walk the ship, from bow to stern, from dusk until quarterlight, that sticklight limping man from Connemara with the drooping shoulders and ash-coloured clothes.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 87}: Reading, to Elizabeth Costello, was an indication of decency. Her husband considered it a waste of time.

MY THOUGHTS: Last read 12 years ago, whilst presumably I enjoyed it enough at the time to give it shelf space, alas this time it is destined for a charity shop.

To begin with, difficult, literally physically difficult to read. Whilst I can't speak of later editions this 2002 issue has incredibly small and faint print.

Expecting a book set on board a ship? Whilst certain chapters are indeed dedicated to events on-board for the vast part the novel is a sequence of passenger biographies written as flashbacks.

Using several different methods of story telling - part captain's log, part epistolic, part newspaper articles, part quotes, part historical documentation - whilst a work of fiction much of the novel read as if factual. Not a bad thing per sa but combined with what at times read like a collection of novellas within the novel I felt the book too busy.

Difficult to rate as whilst for me there is little to recommend the book as a whole there are however several of the novellas (if I can describe them as such) contained within that were OK, some of them even giving a bit of light relief to what was otherwise a thoroughly depressing if arguably realistic read given the period in which is set.


28 Oct 2014

THE GROUND WILL CATCH YOU.


THE GROUND WILL CATCH YOU by DAVID POWNING.

SOURCE: Received for review from the author.

BACK COVER BLURB: Steve Hollis despises what he has become, the existence he has settled for.

He is leading the wrong life and dreaming of missed opportunities, following an act of revenge he cannot forget.

One person can put him back on the right path, another will lead him further astray.

But when tragedy strikes and danger slips out of the shadows, recrimination follows swiftly. As the days pass and the pressure mounts, there is only one question that Hollis must find an answer to ....

Is there a way back?

FIRST SENTENCE {Part 1: Acceptance - Chapter 1}: I dream of falling.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 98}: The power of those children was seemingly without limit, like in some weird horror film.

MY THOUGHTS: A bit like one of those movie trailers which doesn't really tell you a lot (if anything) about the film, reading the synopsis of this debut novel really does not do justice to the story awaiting you.

Perhaps not the best choice of reading material for those wanting an action packed read but for those who enjoy character led books. Well, lets just say you are if for a treat.

A wonderfully insightful and thought provoking read into how relationships can change you ..... both for the better and the worse. The dynamics between the trios that were Steve, his girlfriend, Emily, and physiotherapist, Alex and that of Steve, his friend, Judo Sensei, Jack, and troubled teen martial arts prodigy, Cyan, really were fascinating.

The Ground Will Catch You explores so many issues of the modern age (bullying, friendship, disability, jealousy, displaced youth, the list goes on) largely through the eyes and psyche of Steve Hollis. Arguably some of them mundane, everyday issues and yet, tremendously compelling, the author brings them, along with the characters, to life in such a way as to make for a read that once started I got so caught up in as to find almost impossible to put down.


27 Oct 2014

THE RUBY SLIPPERS.


THE RUBY SLIPPERS by KEIR ALEXANDER.

SOURCE: A Reader's Group Read.

BACK COVER BLURB: Old Rosa the bag lady shuffles along the streets of New York, stinking, silent and shunned.

After she suffers a terrible accident, her nephew Michael is called upon to visit her squalid apartment and from in amongst her reeking piles of junk, he unearths something that hints at a Rosa he can barely imagine: an original pair of the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

The slippers soon become an irresistible beacon to the misplaced hopes and darkest desires of friends, family and foe. But who will stop to learn the remarkable story behind Rosa's 'Ruby Millions'?

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter One}: She stinks.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 185}: 'Ah well .....' he says finally, and seeing no sign of anything in the petrified face, raises his hand, gives a little wiggle of his fingers, as if saying goodbye to a child, and walks away, leaving the emptiness of her there upon the bed.

MY THOUGHTS: A book I don't particularly want to review. A book I'd much prefer to give you a copy of so that you too could discover the literary gem that is The Ruby Slippers. 

Our October 2014 Reader's Group read, of all of the many books we have read this is only the third one that I've wanted a copy of for our shelves.

With a big (and I mean that in every sense of the word) cast of seemingly random characters who each have their own part to play in this debut novel,
the story traverses between Latvia at the start of WWII to present day America. Not always a feat an author manages to pull off without losing the reader but Keir Alexander does so with much aplomb. Rosa's tale from a free-spirited young woman, dresser to Miss Judy Garland, possessor of THE ruby slippers to 'stinking bag lady' (largely revealed to us bit by bit through notes she kept) though not perhaps as prominent as it might have been the linchpin on which the whole book hinges.

Full of pathos and yet also moments of unbridled happiness. A modern parable that proves there really is no place like home, this has to be one of, if not my favourite read of the year so far.


25 Oct 2014

25 ROSES.

25 Roses25 ROSES by STEPHANIE FARIS.

SOURCE: Received for review from the author. 25 Roses is due to be released January (February in the UK) 2015. An Advanced Reading Copy all quotes were published with the permission of the author.

BACK COVER BLURB: Mia Hartley has always lived in the shadow of her perfect older sister, Kellie, who can do no wrong. And even though Mia has her own BFF's, she feels overshadowed by the super-popular girls at school, a clique led by queen bee Kaylee Hopper.

Mia finally has a chance to get noticed when it comes time for the student council chocolate rose sale. Every year students buy roses for their crushes and friends, and the grade that sells the most roses wins bragging rights and a fun prize. And every year the same group of people gets most of the roses, making everyone else feel left out. However, Mia is in charge of selling the roses this year for the seventh grade - and things are going to change.

With a little creativity, Mia makes sure the kids who usually leave empty-handed suddenly find themselves the object of someone's affection. Soon the school is buzzing with newfound crush statuses - and people finally notice Mia. But her plans start to unravel when she realises that being a secret Cupid is a lot more complicated than she'd ever imagined. Can Mia manage to match hearts and not break them - and find the perfect way to shine?
~ Contains spoiler hi-light to view.

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter One} To: Stanton Middle School 
From: Mia Hartley 
This place could use a real-life Cupid.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 34}: This was Dad, the guy who had told us we couldn't start dating until we were thirty-eight. I was starting to think he might get his wish. With me, anyway.

MY THOUGHTS: Though not a novel that I got into straight away I did find myself slowly but surely engrossed in the life of Mia, BFF, Ashleigh, and BMFF (Best Male Friend Forever if like me you are older than the nine to thirteen year old for which the book is marketed), Alex. I admit I did have my concerns that here was a book predominately aimed at an American audience but with its themes of friendship, sibling rivalry, fitting in and first crushes 25 Roses is also a very universal story.

A lively and innocent tale of discovery and realisations. I'm so pleased that rather than a vacuous story of beautiful/popular girl gets their boy that sent out all of the wrong messages here was a tale of 'average' girls, girls with 'baggy clothes and hair with a bad case of the frizzies', standing out because of their new found confidence all brought about by one girl doing what she thought was the right thing.

With a fun cover that is neither too grown-up nor too childish, characters that I'm sure many will relate to/aspire to be and a plot which includes a bit of a mystery - just who is placing those roses and messages in Mia's locker? -  I'm sure this will prove a hit with many young readers.