29 September, 2014

Book Review: The Lake of Dreams

From Goodreads: Lucy Jarrett is at a crossroads in her life, still haunted by her father's unresolved death a decade earlier. She returns to her hometown in Upstate New York, The Lake of Dreams, and, late one night, she cracks the lock of a window seat and discovers a collection of objects. They appear to be idle curiosities, but soon Lucy realizes that she has stumbled across a dark secret from her family's past, one that will radically change her—and the future of her family—forever.

Thoughts: This book should have been so much more than it was.I struggled to get into it, struggled to stay with it and was relieved when I finished it. It had all the elements of a good story but it just fell flat for me. It had a strong feminist story line which some how missed the mark, family intrigue which appeared to be way more important than it was, the chance for someone to struggle with and resolve the direction of her life that happened way to easily. In the end it was just very...meh. And that's the best I can say.

Book Review: The End

From Goodreads: Dear Reader, You are presumably looking at the back of this book, or the end of THE END. The end of THE END is the best place to begin THE END, because if you read THE END from the beginning of the beginning of THE END to the end of the end of THE END, you will arrive at the end of the end of your rope.
This book is the last in A Series of Unfortunate Events, and even if you braved the previous twelve volumes, you probably can't stand such unpleasantries as a fearsome storm, a suspicious beverage, a herd of wild sheep, an enormous bird cage, and a truly haunting secret about the Baudelaire parents.
It has been my solemn occupation to complete the history of the Baudelaire orphans, and at last I am finished. You likely have some other occupation, so if I were you I would drop this book at once, so THE END does not finish you.
With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

Thoughts: And thus, we come to The End - the final book in a Series of Unfortunate Events. We almost didn't make it - in fact, we reorganised our car pool arrangements to ensure we finished before the school holidays. The End does not explain everything - in fact it most probably explains very little and raises a few more questions. Many reviews I have read of it take umbrage at this but for me it was the only way it could end. As the series went, things became murkier and murkier. The children started to realise that not everything is black or white, good people can do bad things and bad people can do good things. Questions can get answered, but quite often those answers simply throw up more questions. If this book wrapped everything up neatly it would have been so out of line with the rest of the series I would have been offended. To follow this whole series through to the end takes commitment but I think it was well worth the effort.

17 September, 2014

Aussie WIP Wednesday

Little White Dove
I'm going to attempt to do this more often as a way of encouraging myself to get some sewing done! I have a few projects that I need to finish, especially as we get closer to the end of the year and the dreaded festive season!
Yesterday I sat down at the machine and finished sewing these rows together.

This will end up being a queen sized quilt for my niece who turned 21 this year. Yes, turned - I'm running late! It's one of two 21st quilts I'm making for nieces this year. The other top is finished and waiting on this one so I can send them off to be quilted.

This needs pink sashing between each row, the same pink sashing as a border and then another 4.5in border to finish.

I was going to do some more today, but ended up taking my mum (who is visiting from Canberra) down to the beach with chairs, coffee and books instead. Maybe tomorrow...

Do you have something you're working on you'd like to share? Pop over to Little White Dove and link up or leave a link in the comments here. I'd love to see what you are working on - hopefully it'll inspire me to keep going!


15 September, 2014

Book Review: The Little Friend

From Goodreads: Bestselling author Donna Tartt returns with a grandly ambitious and utterly riveting novel of childhood, innocence and evil.
The setting is Alexandria, Mississippi, where one Mother’s Day a little boy named Robin Cleve Dufresnes was found hanging from a tree in his parents’ yard. Twelve years later Robin’s murder is still unsolved and his family remains devastated. So it is that Robin’s sister Harriet - unnervingly bright, insufferably determined, and unduly influenced by the fiction of Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson--sets out to unmask his killer. Aided only by her worshipful friend Hely, Harriet crosses her town’s rigid lines of race and caste and burrows deep into her family’s history of loss.

Thoughts: A couple of years ago, stuck on the couch with a broken leg, I read The Secret History. I really enjoyed, but knew it had been an intense read. That, coupled with the fact that The Little Friend was so big has put me off reading it. However, as part of my TBR Spring Clean Challenge, I picked it up and started. So much of what I loved about The Secret History was there - solid characters, wonderful descriptions, a building of suspense. Again, a dense, attention demanding read, but enjoyable, thought provoking. Tartt sets you down in the middle of a sweltering Mississippi town and takes you into the lives of two very different families. The Cleves - a dysfunctional middle class family of some standing in the town; a family which has never recovered from the suspicious death of Robin a the age of 9. The Ratliffs - a family of four poverty stricken, drug addled brothers and their grandma. You can smell the different houses, see the different people as you read. The story slowly brings parts these two families together as Harriet spends her summer trying to solve the murder of her brother over 10 years ago.
I loved the writing. Tartt is a vivid story teller but (and it's a big but) the story just stops! Nothing - and I mean absolutely nothing - is resolved at the end! While I also detest books where everything is tied up in a neat bow at the end, this type of ending is equally frustrating. It truly felt like she had a word limit, she reached it and stopped. Not quite mid sentence, but it may as well have been!  I actually checked to see if there were pages missing.
Maybe it's me - maybe I'm the one missing something, but to say I was disappointed by the end of this is a major understatement. I felt betrayed (the book is 555 pages of small type) and abandoned. I'd formed an attachment to Harriet and her struggle. I needed to know she would be ok, but there is nothing to hold onto. Nothing to give you hope, nothing to suggest that the summer changes any thing at all for her or the Ratliffs. Disappointing.

09 September, 2014

Book Review: The Distant Hours

From Goodreads: A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.
Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.
Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring unforgettable characters beset by love and circumstance and haunted by memory, that reminds us of the rich power of storytelling.

Thoughts: I listened to this as an audio book and must say  the narrator, Caroline Lee was a fantastic choice. 
The Distant Hours is a book about secrets - those we keep from others, those we keep from ourselves and the effect those secrets have on those surrounding it. Kate Morton takes the reader into the lives of the Blythe sisters - thick with secrets - and slowly unravels their tale and the tragedy of lives not lived to the fullest. Enslaved by a controlling, dead father and the legacy of a book he wrote - The True History of the Mud Man - Percy, Saffy and Juniper all have their roles to play, whether they want to or not.
For me, Morton's great strength is in her characters and her ability to make you invest in them. She is very good at leading you down a certain path, only to suddenly change direction and make you question everything you thought. The person you detested, thinking they were horrible and really not very nice, turns out to be one you admire most by the end.
A trait of Morton's is the story jumping back and forth in time. However, the distance between the time lines (in this case, WWII and 1992) makes it fairly easy to follow the story. Another thing I like about Morton is the fact that the reader is told everything, even if the characters are still in the dark. In this way, the reader is privy to all the secrets without feeling like the characters have come across the information in a contrived and unnatural way. The reality is a lot of secrets are taken to the grave, those left behind to never know the full truth of the matter. As a reader, that frustrates the hell out of me! If I've taken the time to follow the story, invest in the characters then I want to know what happened! Morton is more than happy to let the reader in, but is also happy to keep the characters in the story in the dark.In this way she ties up all loose ends without ruining the feel of the book. 
There is now only one Kate Morton book I haven't read and I'm caught between diving back into one of her wonderfully rich worlds or putting it off so it doesn't pass to fast! My next audio is Tim Winton's Eyrie, so maybe after that... 

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The Distant Hours

05 September, 2014

Book Review: The Coffin Dancer

From Goodreads: This return engagement for quadriplegic criminologist Lincoln Rhyme is strong on forensic details as he tracks an elusive assassin known only by the tattoo that gives this fast-paced thriller its title.
Three witnesses to a murder could put a millionaire arms dealer behind bars for good. When one of them, the co-owner of Hudson Air, is blown up in a plane bombing with the Dancer's fingerprints all over it, the FBI takes the other witnesses into protective custody. Only Rhyme can decipher a crime scene, read the residue of a bombing or identify a handful of dirt well enough to keep up with the killer. Helped by Amelia Sachs, his brilliant and able-bodied assistant, Rhyme traces the Dancer through Manhattan streets, airports and subways. The psychological tension builds rapidly from page one all the way through to the stunning and unexpected denouement. At the same time, Jeffery Deaver slowly develops the against-all-odds love affair between Rhyme and Sachs.

Thoughts: This is the second book in Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series and it was totally enjoyable. An easy read (took me just over a day), it's fast paced and keeps the reader interested. As the series progresses it will be interesting to see if Rhyme mellows a bit or if he stays the gruff, short-tempered potential arsehole he has been so far. I'm not sure which option I prefer. I think there is a danger of him becoming a caricature of the second if there is no mellowing. On the other hand, if he mellows too much he'll become boring!
As with all good crime/ thriller novels, there is a twist at the end. At first I was a bit incredulous of the twist, found it a bit hard to swallow, but Deaver's writing soon had me not really caring as he swept you along in the break neck speed of the end game. Then when it was further explained, I was ok - still fairly far fetched, but let's face it, it's a book not real life we're dealing with here.

03 September, 2014

Book Review: Hand Me Down World

From Goodreads: This is a story about a woman.
And the truck driver who mistook her for a prostitute.
The old man she robbed and the hunters who smuggled her across the border.
The woman whose name she stole, the wife who turned a blind eye.
This is the story of a mother searching for her child.

Thoughts: This book is part of my TBR Spring Clean Challenge. I've had this book for a couple of years but have put off reading it. The main reason for my reticence is my memory of reading Mr Pip, also by Lloyd Jones. While I enjoyed it, I remember a feeling of struggling with it. Once I re-read my review, it obvious the struggle came from thinking I was missing something. I might have to have another go at it.
As for Hand Me Down World - I needn't have worried. I tore through this book in just 3 days. I so desperately wanted to know what was going to happen. A woman sets out from Tunisia to find her child - the child whose father has taken and returned to Germany with. From her trip on a people smuggler boat to her trek from Sicily, through Italy, across the Swiss alps and finally to Berlin, Germany, her tale is told by the testimonies of those who helped her along the way. Once in Berlin, we get to read the longer testimonies of two who helped her there. This way of telling the tale give the reader only a glimpse of the woman who we finally come to know as Ines. All your impressions comes from third parties and as Ines is not very forth coming with details, you are left wondering about her thought processes and motivations. You know she is vulnerable, but she is also determined and, at times, incredibly frustrating! Finally, in the last third you get Ines point of view. Not surprisingly, her interpretation of events does not always correlate with what you have already been told and you are left to wonder who is telling the truth - or more to the point, which part of each testimony is true. In the end, I'm not sure I knew Ines any better for having read her story.
The use of testimonies to tell this story works. It sounds like it wouldn't and if I'd known about it before I 'd read the book I would have been very skeptical about it. However Lloyd pulls it off with brilliance. Everyone's voice sounds genuine. The spin they put on their part of the tale sounds plausible, as if the narrators truly believe every word they are saying. Ines' character stays consistent from one to another - she never lets her guard down. I truly enjoyed this book and will be looking for more of Jones' work.