Categories
2009

Brixton Beach – Roma Tearne

Brixton Beach is a difficult book to rate. It has a fantastic opening chapter and a powerful, poignant ending, but unfortunately the rest of the book is a bit forgettable.

The book opens with an emotionally charged glimpse at the London tube bombings of 2005 in which 56 people were killed. I wasn’t surprised to see a quote from Chris Cleave on the back of the book (‘Heartfelt and timely’) as the opening chapter was reminiscent of his wonderful book, The Other Hand.

Unfortunately, the plot went downhill very quickly. The second chapter was so quiet in comparison that I was left feeling a bit let down and lost. The setting changed to a quiet Sri Lankan village and followed a young girl as she grew up. The fact that her father was of Tamil descent meant that her family was threatened by violence and so they decided to emigrate to the safety of London. This whole section was OK, but I have read about the difficulties of immigration so many times that I have lost interest. This book didn’t offer any new insights on the situation, despite the fact that Sri Lanka isn’t a country I’ve read about before.

The plot picks up towards the end and you can guess that the story goes full circle, returning to the terrible events on the London tubes. The ending was emotional, but I was disappointed that I’d had to wade through 350 pages of slow moving plot to get there.

On a positive note, the writing was of good quality, so I would be tempted to read another one of her books – I just hope they are more like the first chapter of this one than the middle 12!

Recommended to anyone who loves tales of immigration.

 

Did you enjoy this book?

Have you read any of her others?

Are you looking forward to the release of her new book, The Swimmer, at the end of April? 

Categories
Other Recommended books

101 Book Group Choices Guaranteed to Provoke Discussion

Choosing a book for a reading group is hard, but I’ve compiled this list of books to help you make that difficult decision. I think the majority of people will enjoy them and, more importantly for any book group, they will create an interesting discussion. This list is a combination of books I’ve read and those that have worked well for other book groups in the past. I hope you find it useful!

My Personal Favourites

Out – Natsuo Kirino
The Ghosts of Eden – Andrew Sharp
The Other Hand – Chris Cleave
Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult
The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey
Random Acts of Heroic Love – Danny Scheinmann
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Notes on a Scandal – Zoe Heller
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The Strain – Guillermo del Toro
Little Face – Sophie Hannah
Ingenious Pain – Andrew Miller

Award Winners

Disgrace – J.M Coetzee
The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
The Secret River – Kate Grenville
Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey
The Bone People – Keri Hulme
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Dwarf – Par Lagerkvist
Blindness – Jose Saramago
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
The Good Earth – Pearl Buck
Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid
The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing

Long, but Worth It

A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami
Stone’s Fall – Iain Pears
Fall on Your Knees – Ann-Marie MacDonald
Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese
The Clan of the Cave Bear – Jean Auel
Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver

Books You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

The Myth of You and Me – Leah Stewart
Snow in August – Peter Hamill
Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire – David Mura
The Blind Side of the Heart – Julia Franck
Under This Unbroken Sky – Shandi Mitchell
The Ginger Tree – Oswald Wynd
The Glass Key – Dashiell Hammett
Stolen Lives – Malika Oufkir
Right of Thirst – Frank Huylar
Touching the Void – Joe Simpson
Cane River – Lailita Tademy
Gap Creek – Robert Morgan
Loving Frank – Nancy Horan

Recent Releases

Ruby’s Spoon – Anna Lawrence Pietroni
Rupture – Simon Lelic
Tender Morsels – Margo Lanagan
The Rapture – Liz Jensen
Legend of a Suicide – David Vann
The Girl with Glass Feet – Ali Shaw
The Island at the End of the World – Sam Taylor
The City & The City – China Mieville
Generation A – Douglas Coupland
Pocket Notebook – Mike Thomas
The Infinities – John Banville
The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa
Still Alice – Lisa Genova
The Vagrants – Yiyun Li
The Chosen One – Carol Lynch Williams
Rooftops of Tehran – Mahbod Seraji

The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim
The Unit – Ninni Holmqvist

The Best of the Rest

Eating Air – Pauline Melville
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba
Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
The World According to Garp – John Irving
Unless – Carol Shields
The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
The Seance – John Harwood
Mudbound – Hilary Jordan
The Blood of Flowers – Anita Amirrezvani
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Flowers For Algernon – Daniel Keyes
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – Lisa See
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher – Kate Summerscale
The Behaviour of Moths – Poppy Adams
Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks
The End of Mr. Y – Scarlett Thomas
The Devil in the White City – Eric Larson
Uglies – Scott Westerfield
Resistance – Anita Shreve
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
The Woman in the Dunes – Kobo Abe
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
Sacred Hearts – Sarah Dunant
Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith
The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
Q and A – Vikas Swarup
Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
Persepolis – Majane Satrapi
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon

The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson
The Visit of the Royal Physician – Per Olov Enquist
The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite – Beatrice Colin
The Glass Room – Simon Mawer
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell

Which books have worked well at your book group?

Have any of the books in the above list failed to charm your book group?

Categories
Blog Improvement Project Other

Have you written any fabulous post titles recently?

The current Blog Improvement Project task is to write a blog post with an eye-catching title. If you’d like to be entered into the best title poll you have until midnight tomorrow to add yours to Mr Linky on the BIP site. There are some great posts already listed, so even if you aren’t taking part in the project it is worth browsing through them.

In the spirit of the magazines we’re supposed to be emulating I’ll let you know that my title is going to be:

101 book group choices guaranteed to provoke discussion

Come back tomorrow to see which books I’ve chosen!

Categories
2009 Fantasy Other Prizes

The Girl with Glass Feet – Ali Shaw

 Short Listed for Costa First Novel Award 2009

The Girl with Glass Feet was Simon’s choice for Not the TV Book Group (an online book group formed recentlyby several UK book bloggers).

The book is set on a strange island, packed with weird animals; the plot centring on a woman called Ida, who discovers that she is slowly turning to glass.

The only word I can use to describe this book is bizarre! I’m afraid that I didn’t really understand the point of this book and the implausibility just seemed to grate on me rather than entertain.

Ida’s toes have turned to glass and she notices that the glass is spreading up her feet, but we have no explanation as to why this is occurring. There is no wicked witch to hate, or cursed place to avoid – it has just happened and Ida seems to accept it. She has a relationship with a man called Midas, but their relationship lacked emotion and I found that I didn’t really care what happened to them. I felt distanced from all the characters, never really understanding what motivated them to do anything.

The book also contained ‘bull moths’ – tiny cows with wings. Why?!! I just didn’t understand. Cows are ugly, muddy things and miniaturising them doesn’t make them cute. I can’t imagine one flying and couldn’t understand why they were present in the book.

Overall I found this to be a very frustrating book. Little was explained or tied up nicely at the end – it was just one bizarre event after another. I prefer stories based in reality, or at least with enough detail to immerse yourself in the strange new world. 

Lots of other people enjoyed it though, so head over to Simon’s blog to read the fantastic discussion in the comments section.

Did you enjoy The Girl with Glass Feet?

Can you accept bizarre occurrences in books, or do you need a plausible explanation?

Categories
Other

My Latest Book Purchases

I  love buying books! There is no way I could manage to stick to a book buying ban and the moment I heard about the BLOB (Biggest Loser of Books) competition I knew there was no point signing up, as I was sure to fail.

I think it is worth it though. Look at all the wonderful books I’ve bought/swapped so far in 2010:

 

I have no idea where I’m going to find the time to read them all, but I’m very proud of my recent treasure hunting abilities!

Which books would you like to see me read first?

Categories
2009 Chunkster Recommended books

Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone is a fantastic book! It would easily have made my ‘Best of 2009’ list, had I read it sooner and I’m sure it will be one of my favourite reads of 2010. At 500+ pages, it isn’t a quick read, but it was well worth the investment of time as the story will stay with me for many years.

The book begins in Ethiopia with a nun giving birth to identical twins. The birth is a shock to everyone who worked with her at Missing, a small hospital struggling to cope with limited resources, as no-one even knew she was pregnant. Unfortunately the nun dies, leaving the father of the children a mystery. The book then follows the twins as they grow up, learning the secrets of their parentage and trying to make the most of themselves in a country on the brink of revolution.

The author, Abraham Verghese, is a doctor and this becomes obvious very early on. The book is packed with medical references and the heart of the novel concerns the differences in medical practices around the world. I admit that sometimes the medical references went over my head, but I felt they gave the book an authenticity that only added to my appreciation of it.

This book is massive in scope, both in terms of the time period covered and continents of the globe visited. It gives an insight into life during a difficult period of Ethiopian history, but also reveals the the universal complexities of family relationships.

Cutting for Stone had the rare ability to bring tears to my eyes, a sign that I had completely connected with the characters and actually cared about their fate.

Highly recommended.

 

Have you read Cutting for Stone?

Did you love it as much as I did?