Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Book club reviews, summer reading and a book giveaway

In January a friend started a new book club and asked me to join. I jumped at the chance because I although I enjoy reading I'd really got out of the habit and had loads of unread books on the shelves. (I'm a sucker for a book shop - I can't leave without 2 or 3 books that will still be unopened months later.)

So, it was about time to get reading again and I've really enjoyed being part of the group. I reviewed our first choice here, but here's a long overdue review of some of the other books we tackled over the past few months.

The Good Father by Noah Hawley.
The Good FatherPaul Allen is a doctor and leads a comfortable life. He has a young family with his second wife and a son from his first marriage. One evening while watching news coverage of the assassination of an aspiring presidential candidate, he answers a knock at the door to find the American secret service who tell him it that his son has been arrested for the crime.

Paul Allen embarks on a crusade to prove his son's innocence whilst trying to figure out how much of it is down to his own failings as a parent and whether it's too late to become a good father now.

Our success as parents, and whether we are good enough, is something that can keep us awake at night and this is about one father's examination of his role as a parent.  I absolutely loved this book. It's a haunting, thought-provoking and beautifully written story that had me gripped until the very end.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes
Arthur Braxton runs away from school and hides out in a derelict public swimming baths called the Oracle. When he finds a naked women swimming in the pool he falls hopelessly in love and his life is changed forever.

Described  as 'a modern urban fairy tale' this is an unflinching and often disturbing look at the people who inhabit the mysterious world Arthur stumbles upon. It's not always an easy read, but you are rewarded with a deeply moving story of how love can redeem us all. The end of the story is a sublime piece of writing and had me blubbing like a good 'un.

It's worth noting that this has become the benchmark by which our book club rates our books. Since reading, we have referred back to it more than any of the others, and its lasting influence is a testament to the impact it had on us.

16181775The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Professor Don Tillman is a professor of genetics and leads a very ordered life and it soon becomes apparent to the reader that he's well advanced on the Asperger's scale. As he approaches his fortieth birthday, he decides it's time to look for a wife.

What follows is both genuinely funny and extremely moving. I loved it and by the end of the book I was more than a little bit in love with Prof Tillman :)

The Rosie Project is a very easy read, and hugely enjoyable.

A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee
Synopsis: Ben and Helen Armstead have reached breaking point. Once a privileged and loving couple, it takes just one afternoon - and a single act of recklessness - for Ben to deal the final blow to their marriage. Separated from her husband, Helen takes a job in PR and discovers she has a rare gift: she can convince arrogant men to admit their mistakes. But Helen finds that the capacity for forgiveness is far harder to apply to her personal one.

This was my least favourite of our book club choices. I had high hopes for it (Dee is a Pulitzer prize winner) but it all went right over my head. The characters weren't interesting or likeable, and I was still waiting for something to happen at the end. It didn't.  It was all a bit meh. 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Nick Dunne comes home from work on his 5th anniversary to find his wife Amy has disappeared. The police suspect Nick and their investigations reveal a side of Nick that he strenuously denies. But what has happened to Amy? And just what is Nick hiding?

Okay, so you've probably heard the hype about this book, after all it's one of the biggest selling books of the year and is about to be made into a film. But is it any good?

Well, yes it is. It's a cracking read and by the time I was halfway through I didn't want to put it down and I can't remember the last time that happened. But, but, but....the end of the book was not quite what I expected, although that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just that I loved the rest of it so much I would have preferred to have had a different conclusion. But yes, read it.

I read these books on holiday:

I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
I love anything by late, great Nora Ephron - films, books, articles, anything. I enjoyed her book I Feel Bad About My Neck so much that I decided to take this one on holiday with me.  I think it's fair to say she's more of a woman's writer but Ephron's style is so witty, so funny and so utterly charming that you'll be chuckling along whoever you are.  I loved this, and although it's funny it's made all the more poignant by the fact she wrote it when she knew she was dying. The last couple of pages are unbearably moving.

One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner
An early morning commuter train, a man collapses, the train is stopped and an ambulance is called.  Karen, Anna and Lou, the main characters of this book are brought together by this one incident. How it affects their lives and their friendship is the focus of the book and the characters are likeable and real and you want to get to know them. 

I picked this up in a charity shop and thought it looked good, and I'm pleased to say my 75p was well spent. This was a great holiday book:  easy to read and very enjoyable.

The Bookman’s TaleThe Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett
I was sent this book to review by the publisher, Alma Books.

Peter Byerly is a young American antiquarian bookseller who relocates to England after the death of his wife. On a visit to a bookshop, he opens an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, and is shocked when a portrait of his wife tumbles out of its pages. The watercolour is clearly Victorian, yet the resemblance is uncanny and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins. As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

Part historical novel, part mystery story and part love story this book is quite an unusual read. I read it on the beach, which seems odd given it's romp through dusty books and historical characters. It's a very interesting book, and the author shifts smoothly between the three time periods and the characters and tells a very satisfying story with all the loose ends well tied. 

l'll be honest, there are so many names mentioned throughout the book (some real historical figures and other fictional ones) that I sometimes got a bit confused about who was who. But still, a very enjoyable read and what's more I have two copies to giveaway! Just leave a comment (with your twitter or email address) if you'd like a chance to win one and I'll pick two names when the draw closes next week on Wednesday 2nd October. Please check the terms and conditions for guidelines. Good luck!

Terms and conditions:  The draw will close at 8pm on Wednesday 2nd October 2013. UK entries only. There is no cash alternative and the prizes cannot be transferred. I will randomly select the winners from the entries provided and my decision is final. If the winners do not respond with their details within 7 days I reserve the right to select a new winner.