Welcome to Fife’s libraries reader reviews newsletter. All books reviewed in this newsletter are available from Fife’s libraries. To find out which libraries have these books, to make a request or share a review, visit www.fifedirect.org.uk/readingroom What’s New? Wake by Anna Hope The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk-Kidd The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey The Arrivals by Melissa Marr Books Reviewed this month The L-shaped Room by Lynne Reid-Banks In Pharoah’s Army by Tobias Wolff
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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera It Ends with Revelations by Dodie Smith Always in My Heart by Ellie Dean Complete Knitting Skills by Debbie Tomkies The Moon Field by Judith Allnatt Longbourn by Jo Baker All editions of Right Guid Read are available on www.fifedirect.org.uk
Reader Reviews The L-shaped Room by Lynne Reid-Banks This book was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise for me. I’d vaguely heard of the film but knew nothing about the storyline. I found it easy to read, loved the style of writing and found the characters believable. It was evocative of the 1950s/1960s and as it was written during that period, it provided a fascinating insight into how attitudes in that era were, regarding issues such as unmarried mothers, racism, prejudices and relationships. I won’t go into details about the storyline as the 'not knowing what to expect' was part of the enjoyment for me, but I will say my reading group all loved it and there were a few 10 out of 10s, which is unheard of! There are 2 follow-up books and although the L-Shaped Room stands on its own, it is testament to my enjoyment that I immediately tracked down the next two to find out what happened next – try it, you won’t be disappointed!
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick Forget about Blade Runner. That was as much about Ridley Scott's stylish visual sense as androids and humanity. The book the film was based on is much more about decay. This is not a world of Tokyo cityscapes; it is a broken world, a dying world, a world populated by those too old or to stubborn to leave. It is about a society where people strive to own a real animal. And of course, it is about questions of what it is to be human, and about the rights of androids when their intelligence surpasses humans'. As usual, Dick imagines this with incisive I intelligence himself, considering commercial and political influences on the development of androids and society in general. The plot is 'overcoming the monster', delivered in simple prose, with twists to confuse and tease your mind. A quick but stimulating read, in short, it deserves its classic status.
In Pharoah’s Army by Tobias Wolff In Pharaoh’s Army was incredibly interesting to read because it is a good book but also because of the comparison to This Boy’s Life memoir. Both use interesting techniques but more specifically in this book Wolff grows up in his writing style and reflects a lot more inwardly. Throughout the book he gives hints as to why he decided to grow up, “I didn’t want to be like him (his father). I wanted to be a man of honour”. This idea of not becoming his father and wanting to have honour in his life becomes a theme that is consistent with his writing. In parts of his memoir Wolff reflects on his regrettable decisions he made, this kind of consideration and admitting is new compared to This Boy’s Life. An example is when a letter comes from his friend’s hook-up explaining she was pregnant and trying to find the friend. Wolff didn’t respond and a year later his friend was killed in Vietnam. The emotional toll of “sitting” on this letter and not telling his friend about his child is enormous and Wolff does not pass that over lightly. In Pharaoh’s Army is a case of reflecting on one’s life and the decisions made. This is not the typical Vietnam Veterans book but rather encompasses themes that many had to deal with not only in ‘Nam but here at home.
Reader Reviews The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera This book was the best accident that ever happened to me. I picked it up because it was suggested to me by a friend and it stopped me reading a really rubbish novel, which can only be a good thing! It has a fractured, post modern narrative which leaps back and forth and the author brings into question who is writing and what is being created. The language he uses is amazing at times for its sheer simplicity. The words seem to dance around each other - quite literally at times as in the chapter where the whole world begins to dance in a ring which floats off into the sky. Kundera owes a lot to Kafka although he seems to have a more optimistic outlook on life. He also reminds me at times of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as strange things begin to happen yet none of the characters notice anything strange! He creates fantastically interesting theories and perfect sentences. Read it!
It Ends with Revelations by Dodie Smith Jill is apparently happily married to Miles - a well known actor. They are staying in a spa town for a short run of a new play in which Miles is starring. Jill meets Robin and Kit, teenage daughters of Geoffrey Thornton an MP and barrister. The meeting will have far reaching consequences for everyone involved. I enjoyed the theatrical background of this interesting story and I liked the characters as well and thought they were well drawn and believable. I especially liked the two girls with their lively conversation and their ability to see a problem and try and solve it. I thought the book was well written with a believable background. The writing is low key and there are plenty of aspects which are left to the reader's imagination. I haven't read this author's famous book `I Capture the Castle' but I enjoyed this and I will be looking out for her other books.
Always in My Heart by Ellie Dean Sarah and Jane Fuller are enjoying life as the daughters of well-to-do expats living in Malaya until the Japanese begin their assault. They have to flee to England, a country that they have never seen. The Fuller girls find themselves got to there Great Aunt Cordelia Finch and the Beach View Boarding House and a whole new life. "Always in my Heart" is the fifth book in series and as with the others I have really enjoyed it. The reader gets to catch up old friends and meet new and interesting characters. In my opinion, this book was more descriptive than the previous books in the series. One was left in no doubt of the hardships that people endured during World War II and how they coped in order to survive. The characters were well defined and I felt as though I knew them personally. This book is obviously a prelude to Ellie Dean's next book "All My Tomorrows" which I look forward to reading in January 2014.
Reader Reviews Complete Knitting Skills by Debbie Tomkies This innovative knitters' manual is a perfect combination of a timeless handbook enhanced with an amazing series of accompanying online tutorials. Learn techniques direct from the book or by viewing video tutorials, moving effortlessly between the two by virtue of a simple indexing system. Follow techniques on the move using your smartphone to access the online tutorials quickly via QR codes, or via the internet on your laptop or netbook. It's like having a knitting expert sitting beside you! Learn key skills such as how to read patterns and charts, which needles to choose, how to hold your yarn and choose the right yarn, cast on, bind off, essential stitches, and making up. A wide range of knitting techniques including lace, cables, textured patterns, colourwork, beaded knitting, and embellishments will be a great reference for beginner and experienced knitters alike.
The Moon Field by Judith Allnatt This beautifully written book is a delight to read especially if, like me, you find the world of a hundred years ago poignant and romantic. It tells the story of a young postman, George, who joins up with the troops and goes to France to the trenches of the First World War. He is in love with Violet who is from a different social class and who has her own sweetheart, and it turns out that he is an officer in the same regiment as George. The story unfolds amid the terrors and fear of trench warfare whilst at home in England life goes on in the quiet countryside. Judith Allnatt writes so descriptively that you can almost see and smell those times long gone. Cleverly interwoven between the main characters, this story is one which will stay with you as if these people really existed.
Longbourn by Jo Baker Confession; I love Pride and Prejudice (not quite as much as Persuasion, but...) It's the book I've read and reread more than any other. So I must admit to more than a slice of apprehension on first reading Longbourn, in which Jo Baker tiptoes below stairs to reflect the servants' story. I need not have worried. Baker takes the original and respectfully, assuredly serves up a new tale full of hope, betrayal, anxiety, war and (yes) while the Bennet family play out their own histories upstairs. This is very much a fresh and completely satisfying entire novel all its own, with Baker's own voice. We have a new, richly drawn heroine and hero, not without their own flaws. There's no flinching from the grimier and grittier side of life in servitude, but there are so many light moments of hopefulness and blossoming romance that keep the reader turning the pages. One for Austen fans, yes, absolutely - but read it for itself, I really urge you. Longbourn deserves that and so much more. Wonderful!
New Titles The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk-Kidd Sarah Grimké is the middle daughter. The one her mother calls difficult and her father calls remarkable. On Sarah's eleventh birthday, Hetty 'Handful' Grimké is taken from the slave quarters she shares with her mother, wrapped in lavender ribbons, and presented to Sarah as a gift. Sarah knows what she does next will unleash a world of trouble. She also knows that she cannot accept. And so, indeed, the trouble begins ... A powerful, sweeping novel, inspired by real events, and set in the American Deep South in the nineteenth century, The Invention of Wings evokes a world of shocking contrasts, of beauty and ugliness, of righteous people living daily with cruelty they fail to recognise; and celebrates the power of friendship and sisterhood against all the odds.
Wake by Anna Hope As the body of the Unknown Soldier makes its way home from the fields of Northern France, three women are dealing with loss in their own way: Hettie, who dances for sixpence a waltz at the Hammersmith Palais; Evelyn, who toils at a job in the pensions office, and Ada, a housewife who is beset by visions of her dead son. One day a young man comes to her door. He carries with him a wartime mystery that will bind these women together and will both mend and tear their hearts. A portrait of three intertwining lives caught at the faultline between empire and modernity, Wake captures the beginnings of a new era, and the day the mood of the nation changed for ever.
The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey Not every gift is a blessing……. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh. Melanie is a very special girl. Emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end, The Girl with all the Gifts is the most powerful and affecting thriller you will read this year.
The Arrivals by Melissa Marr The second adult novel from the internationally bestselling author Melissa Marr. Chloe knew she shouldn’t have gone into the bar last night. Now, in addition to a pounding headache and weak limbs, she’s got the guilt of five years sobriety down the drain. When she wakes, she’s not in the world she knows. She’s in The Wasteland, a world populated by monsters and unfamiliar landscapes, in the company of people just like her, pulled to the Wasteland out of time and place, for reasons no one knows or understands. Once there, though, their mission is clear: keep the peace, protect each other, and try not to die, because sometimes, after six days of death, you might not wake up.