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

Did you know you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more bookish goodness?

Read together: August 2015 – The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

August 2015 – Mel’s choice

The Farm

by Tom Rob Smith

The Farm

Published February 2014

Genres: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

“Had I chosen blindness, I’m quite sure Hakan would’ve celebrated my choice, delighting in my surrender and rewarding me with a host of friendships. But blindness is not an easy path. It requires commitment and dedication. The price was too high: I would become an imitation of Elise. Perhaps she was imitating a woman before her, perhaps this pattern of blindness was generations old, women forced to empty their heads of questions or criticisms, playing a part that was as old as these farms – the part of loyal devotion – a role that would bring me acceptance, maybe even happiness of a kind. Except when I was alone. I’d hate myself. It’s how we feel about ourselves when we’re alone that must guide our decisions.”

Daniel believed his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden, the country of his mother’s birth. But with a single phone call, everything changes. 

Your mother…she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. In fact, she has been committed to a mental hospital.

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad…I need the police…Meet me at Heathrow. 

Daniel is immediately caught between his parents – whom to believe, whom to trust? He becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury. Presented with a horrific crime, a conspiracy that implicates his own father. Daniel must examine the evidence and decide for himself: who is telling the truth? And he has secrets of his own that for too long he has kept hidden…

Mel says…

I read a couple of reviews on The Farm and from those reviews, I immediately wanted this book in my life. All the reviews said the same thing, read this now! 

From the first 10-odd pages of this book, I was captivated. Within sentences, the author has this adventure off and running. The main plot focuses on a series of events, told to Daniel by his mother, Tilde. During the chain of events, I found that I was wanting to jump into the book and play detective, right beside Tilde.

As the story progresses, I found myself concocting all kinds of possible outcomes and reasons for the series of events. I knew there would be more to each event than was being presented, and wanting to find these reasons out as soon as possible pushed me to zoom through this book faster than any other in a long while.

By the time I finished the book, I was bewildered and shocked. I love books that take many twists and turns to end up in a place you had no idea existed. This book is a must read for anyone who enjoys an unpredictable storyline and outcome. For anyone who is looking to discover that not everything is quite as it seems. Get on down to your local bookstore or library and pick The Farm up today!

Rating:

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

Janelle says…

When Mel suggested this book for our next joint read, I actually hadn’t heard of it. So I looked up the summary on Goodreads, and I believe my reply to her was something like, “Holy cow! Get this book in my face right now!”

I knew it was going to be suspenseful, I would be plagued with questions the whole time, and I would not want to put it down. And it delivered!

The Farm wastes no time getting down to business. You’ve barely learnt the names of the main characters when BAM! The rollercoaster begins, and it feels like with each turn of the page you change your mind about who you believe, who is in the wrong, and who needs saving.

The overarching themes here, are secrets and trust. Secrets from people who you’re not supposed to have any secrets from. Secrets that threaten to hurt or destroy. Secrets that are too unfathomable to be believed. Questioning the long-held trust you’ve had in your loved ones. Not knowing who to trust in desperation. Not knowing if you can trust yourself.

I really did blast through this book at speed, but the one small thing that let it down for me was its style. The majority of the book is written from the POV of the mother telling her complex story to her son as a chronological order of events, in the hope that he will believe her story if she has shown evidence and clear facts to substantiate her claims. But there was something about the language, it felt far too formal for me to believe it was a mother speaking to her son, even if what she was relaying was a detailed series of events, rather than just casual chit-chat. The language she was using was more conducive to a job interview than speaking to a member of her family. I couldn’t naturally envision the scenes in my head as I was reading, and it irked me.

Having said that though, that is no reason to overlook this book. If you enjoy suspenseful thrillers (like me!), with a little emotional trauma and dysfunctional family dynamics thrown in, then I think you’re gonna love The Farm.

Rating:

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

Joining in with The Weekend Rewind with Maxabella Loves and friends

Read by Janelle: July 2015 – The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

the thirteenth tale

Published 2006

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Mystery

I was spellbound. There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner, wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk. And when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”

Margaret Lea leads a quiet, uncomplicated life, assisting her father in his bookshop, reading whenever she can, and occasionally dabbling in obscure biographical writing. When she unexpectedly receives a letter from Vida Winter, a reclusive bestselling author, requesting Margaret to write her autobiography, she is curiously compelled to accept the invitation. Soon after arriving at Ms Winter’s residence and meeting the aging and sickly writer, Margaret is quickly entranced by her story as slowly the details of her mysterious past are revealed. And what does all this have to do with Ms Winter’s never-published, but infamous, Thirteenth Tale?…….

Janelle says…

This is a book about books. What could be better than reading about reading? Books are a key and recurring feature, sometimes subtly in the background, sometimes directly in the foreground. Vida Winter is one of the world’s most popular novelists of the day. Margaret Lea has grown up surrounded by books in her father’s bookshop, and consuming them in every spare moment. The library in Angelfield House pops up again and again when the story takes us to that location. And scattered throughout are references to books- being read by the characters, mentioned in conversation, simply appearing in the story. Books hold a special place for many of the characters- they are an escape, a creative outlet, a means of living, a measure of one’s knowledge and personality.

This is also a book about families, and how the people around you make you who you are. There are many interconnections between characters, which are revealed one by one as you read on, and they leave their permanent scars on each other as the story unfolds. There are secrets, and lies, and mysteries. And every character in this book seems to carry weight, even the ones intended to be minor characters. Every one has their own story.

The language was beautifully descriptive, at times the author lingering on singular moments or features – a thought, the setting of a room, a particular object…..but I never felt bored, or that the story was moving too slowly. On a few occasions, my breath was taken away by the writing, particular in the passages I’ve featured here.

“The letter was moderate, small enough for economy of ink and paper, and large enough for clarity. There were no embellishments, no elaborate curls, flounces or flourishes. The beauty of the orthography came from the sense of order, balance and proportion that governed each and every letter. It was a good, clean hand. It was Hester herself, made word.”

I listened to The Thirteenth Tale on audiobook, read by Jenny Agutter. Jenny’s spotless enunciation combined with her charming British accent, and ability to tweak her voice slightly to reflect the introduction of each new character, made for a smooth and relaxing listen. Her style suits the tone and language of the book perfectly – well done to whoever chose Jenny to read this story aloud! I honestly don’t know if I would have enjoyed the book as much if I had just read the print version. Unfortunately I did have to read part of it in print – the audiobook version I had was a cd copy from the library, which of course was scratched and would jump from time to time, and OF COURSE the worst damage was over the last 6 or 7 tracks on the last cd. So I completely missed the ending and had to then borrow a print copy just to read the ending!

Read this if you like books about books, if you like stories with many well-defined characters who you will bond with, or if you like mysterious stories with plenty of links between characters and places and events that you will enjoy figuring out as you go along.   Listen to it on audiobook if you like posh British accents, and listen to it if it’s cold and rainy outside – just because it seems to fit the tone.

Rating:

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

Did you know you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more bookish goodness?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 43 other followers

Follow Little Blog of Books on WordPress.com