Loveable – Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus

by Steven Rowley

lilyoctopusimg400

Published June 2016

Genres: Fiction / Literary

 

“….Thursday nights are the nights my dog, Lily, and I set aside to talk about boys we think are cute.”

Ted lives with his long-time companion, his dog Lily, and through their years together they see relationships come and go, they share heartbreak, they have adventures and they ponder cute male celebrities. But with the arrival of the octopus, their world could completely change.

 

Janelle says…

 

It was the wonderfully weird synopsis on Netgalley that enticed me to read this book – “…a struggling writer finds himself unable to open up to the possibility of love – except through the companionship of his aging dachshund Lily. But with the unexpected arrival of a small octopus that affixes itself to Lily’s head, it soon becomes clear the invader is strangling the life from his dog and threatening the bond with his one true friend.”

Now who wouldn’t be intrigued by that?

I don’t really want to say too much about the story here for fear of giving away spoilers. What I can say is that this is the story of a long friendship between a single man and his dog, and that for both of them the relationship is the most important one in their lives.

The animal lovers among us will know that our pets are there with us through our challenges and triumphs, like any other member of the family or close friendship circle. You’ll empathise with the bond that these two characters share, although perhaps you might not have been absolute best friends with your pet like Ted is with Lily in this book.

The book certainly is strange, but there is a sad logic to the strangeness. Overall I just found it to be very sweet and I was immediately endeared to Ted and Lily. I laughed out loud in spots, and then in others I teared up. At times this book felt like a great big hug, and at other times I felt like I had been punched in the chest. And I’m not saying anything more! Other than if you’ve ever loved a pet, and even if you haven’t, I think this book is well worth your time.

Lily and the Octopus will be published in June by Simon & Schuster.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

*I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*

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Feels – Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

2016-05-05 21.14.54

Published 2014

Genres: Fiction / Suspense

 

“Samantha: Parents do tend to judge each other. I don’t know why. Maybe because none of us really know what we’re doing? And I guess that can sometimes lead to conflict. Just not normally on this sort of scale.”

School dramas are not always isolated to the playground. The Kindy Mums at Pirriwee Public School are starring in a soap opera of their own making, with gossip, finger-pointing, cliques, and general bitchiness a daily occurrence. But some of them have secrets too. And when the truths start to come out, tensions will culminate in the death of a parent.

 

Janelle says…

FINALLY I have gotten around to reading Liane Moriarty, something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, and now I can’t wait to read more of her work. This book floored me. I had so many feelings while reading it. I laughed, I cried, I sizzled with anger, I squirmed with discomfort. And I was right there with the characters, cheering for the ones I loved, booing for the ones I despised. Even when I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about the characters, wondering about them and how their story would unfold, as if they were real.

We follow three lead characters in this story – outspoken, loud, fun-loving Madeline; quiet, uncertain, plain Jane; and classy, nervous, beautiful Celeste. Each of these three friends leads very different family lives, and each has their secrets and worries. Their children and the school are the glue that brings them together, as well as the intermittent scandals of the other bitchier school Mums.

A warning – this is no catty, gossipy Mum drama. This book can get intense at times, and deals with some dark issues. There is teenager trouble, domestic violence issues, bullying and harrassment, self-image worries, sexual abuse…..and as mentioned above, death. But it deals with it all in such a real way, the internal murmurings of the characters dealing with these problems are honest and what I imagine would be true-to-life in those situations.

We find out early in the book that a parent has been killed, but we don’t know how, why, or even who, and the narrative eludes to the possibility of another parent being involved in the death but we don’t know any details for certain. There’s an added layer of suspense throughout the whole story, as we go back to the beginning and work our way towards the event in which a parent dies, learning facts as we go and trying to piece together the puzzle.

This was a wonderful piece of suspenseful fiction, which I feel does fit under the umbrella of literary fiction despite the plot being packed with events along the way. But I think you will get even more enjoyment from this book if you are a parent yourself. Your compassion, horror, disgust, grief, and solidarity with the characters will be all the more rich for having that in common with them.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Unfulfilling – Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies

by Lauren Groff

fates and furies

Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

 

“Up there rose the ghosts of parties, of themselves when they were younger, too dumb to understand that they were ecstatic.

Whatever happened to all of those friends of ours? Lotto wondered. The ones who had seemed so essential had faded away. Nerd princes with their twins in strollers, Park Slope and craft beers. Arnie, who owned a bar empire, still doing girls with plates in their ears and jailhouse tattoos. Natalie now a CFO of some Internet start-up in San Francisco, a hundred others faded off. The friends had been whittled down. The ones who remained were heartwood, marrow.”

Lotto and Mathilde meet in college and marry soon after, seemingly star-crossed infatuated lovers. And despite the trials of adulthood – financial stress, lack of job stability etc. – their love for each other seems steadfast. Lotto is the star, an actor-turned-playwright, beloved by all, centre of many a crush. Mathilde meanwhile plays the supportive spouse – happy to linger humbly out of the spotlight, taking care of household matters. But out of the spotlight, is that how they see it?

 

Janelle says…

So far, I’m the only person I know who was underwhelmed by this book which has otherwise been raved about. Maybe it was just a case of “wrong book, wrong time”, but I couldn’t wait to reach the end of it.

Fates and Furies was released in late 2015 to much acclaim – it was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award, a finalist as a fiction nominee for the 2015 Kirkus Prize, and a nominee for the 2015 Goodreads Readers Choice Award for Fiction. All this in the 5 months since it was published.

In case you haven’t heard about it, to quote the beginning of just about every review of this book so far – “It’s a book about marriage”. Although I believe that’s subjective. Maybe it would be more accurate to say it’s a book about the cliched heterosexual marriage. The husband is the shining star, the proud breadwinner, the very obvious head of the partnership. The wife – his admiring supporter, discreetly managing the many little details of life behind-the-scenes so that the surface displays a tidy, perfect, well-managed operation. Although how they each see themselves and each other are not necessarily aligned.

The book is split in two – the “Fates” half told by the husband, Lotto, with “Furies” told from Mathilde’s viewpoint. To be honest, I was bored about halfway through “Fates”, but I forced myself to stick with it in the hope that “Furies” would bring grand revelations and plenty of shocked gasping. It did not. For me anyway, I’ve heard other people have had this reaction to it though.

 

“Somehow, despite her politics and smarts, she had become a wife, and wives, as we all know, are invisible. The midnight elves of marriage. The house in the country, the apartment in the city, the taxes, the dog, all were her concern: he had no idea what she did with her time.”

 

I certainly understand that the author is trying to make a feminist point, and that it’s a commentary on the union of a traditional marriage – the purpose of a man in a relationship, and the purpose of a woman. The man in this book doesn’t live up to what he believes his purpose as a husband is supposed to be (for some of the book anyway), and the woman does believe she is living up to her supposed purpose as a wife but doesn’t necessarily agree with it. That’s how I interpreted it anyway.

But try as I might, I just couldn’t gel with the author’s abstract way of writing. I had to read over many paragraphs at least twice, my mind just couldn’t latch on to the words a lot of the time and it was too easy to be distracted by other things. And I think this could be an issue with me and this particular author in general. I started listening to another of her novels on audiobook at the same time that I was reading this in print, and I couldn’t stand to listen to it for more than about half an hour before I was completely lost and frustrated.

Also, the characters. I couldn’t have cared less for them and just wanted them out of my life. Total narcissists, although one was worse than the other. I know it goes against the moral of the story, but at times I just wanted to yell at them – “Hey guys? #firstworldproblems, ok?”

Maybe I just completely missed the point because the writing style wasn’t for me. Anyway, I truly am very disappointed to be the only person in the world who didn’t love this book, but hey – that’s what’s wonderful about the reading experience. You don’t have to love what everyone else does!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Action-packed – Fear Is The Rider by Kenneth Cook

Fear Is The Rider

by Kenneth Cook

9781925240856

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Suspense / Thriller

“There was a girl running out of the scrub towards him. The temperature was fifty degrees centigrade, there wasn’t a house within two hundred kilometres and a girl was running out of the scrub.”

Katie and John are both lone travellers, making the hot and dusty journey across Australia’s south-east corner, when they briefly cross paths in a lonely outback pub. The next day, back on the road again, they cross paths again….but this time, it’s because Katie is running for her life from the vast scrubby nothingness towards John’s car as he passes by. She’s been attacked by someone, or something, and now they will both be hunted in a terrifying and exhausting game of cat and mouse in the unforgiving desert.

 

Janelle says…

That line up there is the first line of Fear Is The Rider. This book doesn’t mess about. Action from the get go.

I read this book in one day. I haven’t managed a one-day read since The Deathly Hallows! Yes, this is a novella which makes it entirely possible to read in a day, but I don’t force my eyes to stay open until the AM hours to finish just any old book. This book packs a massive punch. I felt like I needed a cup of tea and a lie down afterwards just to get my heart rate back to normal.

Basically, this is about a couple being chased by a wacko through the outback. You’re probably thinking “Wolf Creek”, aren’t you? The story isn’t original, but what made this book so great was the pace (lightning fast), the timing (suspenseful), and the plot (unrelenting). And of course, the Australian desert landscape is the perfect foreboding setting for a tense, scary thriller, it’s almost a character in its own right.

I didn’t plan to stay up late and finish the book, but I just couldn’t stop! At no time did an appropriate place to place a bookmark and walk away present itself. It was just this non-stop roller-coaster ride that had me hiding behind my hands and gasping. It was SOOOOO GOOD.

I don’t know what else really needs to be said about this book. To me, there was no moral to the story, no commentary on this or that, no theme….it was just pure, adventurous fun. And I really want you all to read it! It’s out on 27 January 2016 – what a great way to recover from your Australia Day festivities!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

*I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*

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Unique – Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

Dear Mr. You

by Mary-Louise Parker

dear-mr-you-9781501107832_hr

Published 2015

Genres: Non-Fiction / Memoir

“Perhaps there are no answers for us poor humans, but we know a handful of things. We know that there exists a planet with four thousand versions of songbirds. Because that is possible and because on that same planet can exist sentient beings made up almost entirely of stardust, and because actual poetry erupts mightily from some of those beings, and there is music, sex, and babies; because we are all roaming a universe that may in fact be a hologram, with another dimension consecutively projecting itself outside the definition of relativity and gravity; because of all that, there is no reason why my prayers shouldn’t be able to reach your mother whose name I didn’t even know.”

 

Janelle says…

This is not your standard autobiography. And thank goodness, because more than anything, I really liked the unique format of this book. Writing letters to people (in the case of this book – men) who have influenced your life in some way – sometimes through a close relationship, sometimes with only an obscure or fleeting impact – is such an intriguing method of self-exploration and sharing your story.

Parker writes in a way that is almost stream-of-consciousness, with really insightful thoughts about the world and the important moments in our lives. It wasn’t until I was about a third of the way through the book that I was really taken by her writing though. The more I read, the more I understood her way of thinking and writing and her letters grew on me, and by the end I felt a real affection for her.

The mystery of the book is that we don’t know for sure who all of the letters are to. Some are obvious or have been deciphered and discussed online – her grandfather, her ex. But for most of them, we might never know. Which I think actually adds to the lure of this book. The idea that seemingly anonymous people who may have only touched your life for a day or an hour or less, can still make you ponder life’s questions deeply and embed themselves in your memory in the long-term.

I wouldn’t say this was one of my favourite books of this year, but it’s clear that Mary-Louise Parker has real writing talent. She’s funny, and honest, and has a way of describing things that make me feel like maybe I have had the same thoughts once, but would never have been able to figure out how to get them down on paper. If you have been a fan of Mary-Louise until now, or are just in the mood for reading something a little out-of-the-square and thoughtful, then give Dear Mr. You a read.

 

“He won’t be able to jump until he is almost eight, will not be capable of pronouncing the letter r, and will pass through a period, as his mother did, where he will stutter so badly that it makes him cry. There will be plenty that he won’t be the best at, but it is within all the medium and below that I will find relief, knowing he can enjoy the enviable position of normal, and the thrill of improving from floundering to adequate.”

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

*I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*

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Wise – Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

by Amy Poehler

amy poehler yes please

Published 2014

Genres: Non-Fiction / Memoir / Humour

 

“I stood onstage in my blue checked dress, Toto in my arms, and looked at the audience of parents, teachers, and students. I breathed in….and I had a huge realisation. I could decide right then and there what the next moment would be. I could try something new. I could go off script and give something a shot. I could say whatever I wanted.”

 

Janelle says…

This is just what a memoir/autobiography should be – a good balance of personal history, life lessons and advice, gossip and humour.

It’s also just what an audiobook should be. There’s so much content you don’t get with the printed version. There are special guest appearances, from Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart, Seth Meyers, and Amy’s parents. There’s snippets of extra narration from Amy along the way. She even performs a sweet little song. There’s even a haiku read by Patrick Stewart!

Amy goes into detail about her early life, her stand-up/improv/acting career to this point, and the people who have influenced her along the way. She also tackles divorce, female self-image, and most interestingly to me – parenting.

“I loved being pregnant, I loved being at work and still feeling vital and busy while this extraordinary thing was happening inside of me. I never felt alone. I always had a companion.”

This is EXACTLY how I felt when I was pregnant, especially the first time, and I remember saying basically the same words to my husband.

Amy is so honest and heartfelt in her thoughts on being a mother. At one point she speaks a lot about “mother-on-mother crime”, which is absolutely a real, sad and ridiculous thing. I love her saying, “Good for her! Not for me” – this viewpoint really needs to be adopted by mothers in general, it would save us all a lot of judgement and hurt!

This review is already a little quote-heavy, but I just can’t resist slipping in one more – in my opinion, the most hilarious moment in the book. Enjoy – and get yourself a copy of this on audio! You will laugh and nod and it will make you happy!

“But take it from me, no one knows the biz like I know the biz, I love the biz. Hollywood’s a crazy biz, and I know the biz, cause the biz is in my blood. Some say I’m a biz-wiz. Either way, show-business is my business, so you better get busy with the business I know.”

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Gripping – The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining

by Stephen King

halloween shining

Published 1977

Genres: Fiction / Horror / Suspense / Thriller

Yep, that’s a copy of The Shining in my freezer up there.

Thanks for the hot tip, Joey Tribbiani.

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“They were alone. Aspen leaves whirled and skittered in aimless packs across the lawn that was now neatly mowed and tended for no guest’s eyes. There was no one to see the autumn leaves steal across the grass but the three of them. It gave Jack a curious shrinking feeling, as if his life force had dwindled to a mere spark while the hotel and the grounds had suddenly doubled in size and become sinister, dwarfing them with sullen, inanimate power.

Then Wendy said: ‘Look at you, doc. Your nose is running like a fire hose. Let’s get inside.’

And they did, closing the door firmly behind them against the restless whine of the wind.”

And so it begins.

Our story is set at The Overlook Hotel, set up high in the wild and breathtaking mountains of Colorado. The peak season is over, and winter is about to set in. The Torrance family, Jack Torrance particularly, are engaged as caretakers, to live in and maintain the hotel over what is expected to be another harsh and isolating snowy season.

But little Danny Torrance has “the shining”, the ability to see into the future, to know things that are otherwise unknown, and to look into the minds of those who also possess even the smallest morsel of this extraordinary ability.

From the time the Torrances first arrive at The Outlook, Danny starts to feel, see and hear things that shouldn’t be there. But is it in his head? Or is it the hotel? Before too long, cabin fever sets in, all while the mysterious and historic hotel is weaving its spell over not just Danny, but Mum and Dad Torrance too. How bad will it get?

Janelle says…

Lately I’ve had such a craving to read horror, and with it being October and all, of course I was going to indulge. I looked to my bookshelves, and immediately chose this old, battered, second-hand copy of The Shining. I don’t think I can imagine reading a shiny new version of this book, to be honest. That just wouldn’t fit at all.

This is my first time reading The Shining, although I have seen the movie many years ago. It totally fulfilled my horror craving and left me feeling content, and also with that lost, unmotivated feeling that happens after reading an incredible book, when you’re not sure when you’ll read something again that measures up to what you’ve just finished.

It’s a reasonably-sized read, my copy is just over 400 pages. Usually anything over say 300 pages makes me slightly nervous at taking a risk on it, because of the time commitment involved to finish it, and the potential for the story to drag. But I sped through this book, and I finished the last quarter or so in one epic session that had me staying up way past my bedtime (again).

Oh man, It. Was. AWE-some!

“From behind him, that soft flump sound of falling snow came again. He turned around and the head of one of the hedge lions was sticking out of the snow now, snarling at him. It was closer than it should have been, almost up to the gate of the playground.”

AAARRGGHHHHH! Freaky hedge animals that move!!

The pace of the story was just perfect, it kept rolling along with intrigue, building in ferocity. I didn’t want to put the book down. The scary bits were for the most part that creepy, tingly kind of scary as opposed to the in-your-face, gory and screamy kind of scary. I caught myself with my fingernails between my teeth a few times.

The book also has themes of domestic violence, anger management, and alcoholism, which I found to be sad in parts, but not upsetting. The parts of the book told in Danny’s voice also clearly represent a young child who is taking in perhaps more of the adult world than he should at his age, yet not completely understanding everything he’s hearing and seeing.

My interest was held fast the whole way through the book, and the length, the pace, the depth of character background and reflection, the plotting…..it all felt perfectly suited to my own personal preferences. It was a great ride, and I think would make a fine introduction to horror for those new to the genre. Read it for Halloween!

 

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Engaging – The Girl Who Slept With God by Val Brelinski

The Girl Who Slept With God

by Val Brelinski

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Published August 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

“Jory took a shaky breath. She suddenly saw that this moment weighed as much as all the previous ones combined. That all the other mental skirmishes had been small change, child’s play. Here, now, was her very own unexpected expected. For one small suspended second in time, she still had the ability to do or not do something, that once done she would then never be able to undo.”

Our story centres around Jory, the middle daughter of the Quanbecks, a family of devoted Christians with strict boundaries and strange routines. Jory is not as devout as her older sister Grace, and not as innocent as her younger sister Frances. Her life is turned on its head when her father sends Jory and Grace to live alone on an isolated farm, after Grace returns pregnant from a Christian mission to Mexico. Grace claims that the baby is God’s, but no one believes her. This upheaval leads to Jory and Grace welcoming some new characters into their lives – the kindly old Mrs Kleinfelter who shares the farm property with the girls, the mysterious, scruffy yet friendly Grip who drives an ice-cream van but doesn’t seem to sell much ice-cream, the brash kids at Jory’s new rough school. All of these people will leave their impressions on the sisters – some for better and some for worse. But how will they cope with living apart from their family, without the familiar people and places that they know, while staying true to their faith? And is Grace’s baby really God’s?

Janelle says…

I loved this book SO MUCH. There’s a lot to say about it, I don’t know where to begin and I don’t think I’m going to do it justice.

Val Brelinski has managed to cram so many emotions and issues into this one book, it kept me intrigued and wanting to keep reading. I adored most of the characters and felt genuinely invested in them, her character development is great. There were many relationship strands between characters but not so many that it felt overwhelming, just believable.

The main character, Jory, is exposed to things that are new to her because of her sheltered, religious upbringing, and because of her pubescent age, some things of which she has never even heard of before. She’s naive, but she’s curious, and she lets her heart lead the way (which gets her into trouble a lot). Growing up, or maybe self-development, is a major theme of this book.

There is also loads of family drama, including one scene of an all-in family fight which felt so real that I could found myself tensing up.

The question of religion and faith is a running theme throughout the book, and this would especially appeal to people with religious upbringings who could relate to this exploration.

There were times when I gasped, times when I laughed, and times when I was on the verge of tears. I really felt like this book had something for everyone, and for every mood. It didn’t lean too far in any one direction, it felt completely balanced, and natural, and beautiful.

As suspected, my review effort has been pretty lame in communicating just how wonderful this book is, so all that’s left to say is – read this book. It will be a great investment of your time, I know you’ll love it.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Read by Janelle: September 2015 – The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

The Beautiful Bureaucrat

by Helen Phillips

20150929_160549_20151002204031623

Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Suspense / Mystery

“Back in 9997, Josephine stood beside her desk, eyeing the accumulated files, dizzy. A bead of sweat rolled from her armpit down her torso. She did not dare touch them. Like snakes. Handle with a stick, avoid skin contact at all costs.”

Married couple Josephine and Joseph have moved to “the big city” to make a new life for themselves. They both score mediocre jobs, frankly just to make ends meet, and spend a lot of time moving from one questionable basement apartment to the next. Josephine’s job is unusual, her one and only role is to input specific lines of data into The Database, ensuring that she works through the mountain of files that magically appear on her desk every morning. Her boss, who we know only as The Person With Bad Breath, gives no hints as to the purpose of The Database or the logic behind the data that is being added to it. Their workplace is a windowless cube, with no obvious corporation name or other way to identify it, other than the entry doors on the outside of the building, marked “A” to “Z”. Before too long, this sterile environment begins to take its toll on Josephine’s mind and body. She becomes suspicious of those around her, both at work and outside of work. And then Joseph starts to disappear for periods at a time with no explanation. What have they got themselves into?

Janelle says…

think I liked this book? I’m still not completely sure, it was such a whirlwind fast read (less than 200 pages) with a whole lot of mystery and weirdness thrown in, I’m still making my mind up. One minute I was totally absorbed in what was happening, the next minute I was frustrated and thrown by how completely bizarre the writing was.

The mystery at the core of the book is The Database, and trying to figure out what it’s for and what the data in it means. Josephine slowly works this out as the story progresses, and all is explained. But in the meantime, get ready to scratch your head in bewilderment a lot. I present to you – Exhibit A:

“She didn’t know whether pomegranates should be selected based on firmness or fragrance or hue.

Poor me granite.

Pagan remote.

Page tame no.

This starts happening more and more as we move through the book, because Josephine’s strange occupation is slowly sending her bonkers. Every couple of paragraphs or so, she will pull apart a word that is mentioned and rearrange the letters to form new words, as above. At first it’s kind of funny and intriguing, then it just becomes annoying, even though it is proving a point about our protagonist’s state of mind. And then, we have this:

“A laundromat, washers and dryers all filled with bright clothing, but the machines static, not spinning. A gorilla in the driver’s seat of a parked car. A transparent bird, a snagged plastic bag, a woman’s arm vanishing into a brick wall. Three luminous Coca-Cola trucks pulled up to a factory.”

It goes on. For a whole page. I have no idea what’s going on here. She is drunk at this point in the story, or at least a little tipsy, but is it possible she is also high on ‘shrooms or something and I didn’t know? What the actual?!

I enjoy books that are slightly off-centre, I do, but to a point. “The Beautiful Bureaucrat” ebbed and flowed in its weirdness, and its saving grace was that it wasn’t completely ridiculous the whole way through.

I really enjoyed the whole mystery around The Database, and whenever I was reading Josephine outside of the office, I was thinking “hurry up and get back to work!”. I love a good puzzle story. The conclusion was satisfying, and it left just enough unturned to let the reader continue to wonder a little more. I loved the whole concept of this story, and ultimately this is what has just tipped me over on to the “liked this book” side of the scales.

This book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea that’s for sure, but if you enjoy your mystery/suspense novels with a good side dose of crazy, then this short read might just be up your alley.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Read by Janelle: September 2015 – Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set A Watchman

by Harper Lee

IMG_20150830_215830

Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

“He began dating her on her annual two-week visits home, and although she still moved like a thirteen-year-old boy and abjured most feminine adornment, he found something so intensely feminine about her that he fell in love. She was easy to look at and easy to be with most of the time, but she was in no sense of the word an easy person. She was afflicted with a restlessness of spirit he could not guess at, but he knew she was the one for him.”

Janelle says…

So, I have read it. Well actually, that’s not entirely true.

I couldn’t ignore the hype, the controversy, or the significance of this book. The story of its discovery through to its publishing, with all the conjecture and divided opinion in between, was completely fascinating. Personally, I don’t believe this manuscript was published with the blessing of Harper Lee. If she was in fact of sound enough mind to consent to its publishing, and the words that announced the publishing did in fact come from her own hand, then why would she sit idly by while the motives of her spokesperson and friend, Tonja Carter, were repeatedly questioned by readers and the media? Wouldn’t she have spoken out to defend her? And why would she have waited so long to publish it? I can’t believe she merely “forgot it existed” once To Kill A Mockingbird once released.

Then again, who am I to comment on how Harper Lee’s mind works?

You might have heard that in Watchman, we learn that Atticus Finch has become somewhat racist, whereas in Mockingbird he was an advocate for racial equality. And there was a definite turning point in this book where that change of heart became apparent, but in my opinion, the discovery of it wasn’t quite shocking or raw enough to warrant the chapters and chapters of Jean Louise’s (Scout’s) grief and outrage that followed. I was expecting something else I guess, maybe some kind of explosive verbal diarrhoea on his part and then gasps and tears all around…….and it was mellow compared to that expectation. I felt like yelling at Jean Louise to just confront him about it already so we could all move on!

There also seemed to be a lot of nothing much happening. I found that I was sitting down to read, and after about a page or so, I would turn to my phone or the TV instead – I was looking for something to distract me from the boredom of continuing to read.

Considering this book was published in the form of the unedited manuscript that was found, I was surprised at how few errors it contained. There were definitely a few, but I was expecting more. However, it was clear to me that a number of areas would ideally have been cut back, had they been edited.

While I was reading, I kept asking myself whether it should be a prerequisite to read Mockingbird before reading Watchman. I think the answer is yes, because if you read Watchman first without any context as to the time or the place or the people or the cultural and social agenda at the heart of the story, you would probably dump this book by page 50. If you’ve read Mockingbird already, there’s a chance you might just finish Watchman. As it turns out, I didn’t finish it. I gave it a good 190 pages before I bailed. I’m not usually a book-quitter, and I really did want to see this one through. But in the end, my interest just couldn’t be revived, and I couldn’t be bothered sticking with it for the remaining 90 pages.

I would absolutely recommend that you Kill A Mockingbird, but I wouldn’t endorse Setting A Watchman.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

DNF (Did Not Finish)

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