Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Reconstructing Amelia - Kimberley McCreight

Single mother and lawyer Kate Baron is in the meeting of her career when she is interrupted by a telephone call. Her daughter Amelia has just been suspended from her exclusive prep school. When Kate eventually arrives at Grace Hall an hour later, she is greeted by the news that no mother ever wants to hear. A grieving Kate can't accept that her daughter would kill herself. But she soon discovers she didn't know Amelia quite as well as she thought. Who are the friends she kept, what are the secrets she hid? And so begins an investigation which takes her deep into Amelia's private world - and into the mind of a troubled young girl. Then Kate receives an anonymous text: AMELIA DIDN'T JUMP. Is someone toying with her or has she been right all along? To find the truth about her daughter, Kate must now face a darker reality than she could ever have imagined. 

Published by: Simon & Schuster - Fiction
Year: 2013 - Paperback
Pages: 386
ISBN: 978-1471111297

Kimberley McCreight's first novel  'Reconstructing Amelia' is the sixth book from my book shelf challenge. Why I had left it sitting on my shelf for this long I do not know as it is absolutely brilliant.

We all like to think we know our teenagers better than they know themselves don't we but I know having been through that with three of them to date that that is not always the case. 

After the shock of her daughter's death Kate Baron struggles to cope with the verdict of suicide and this is compounded when she receives an anonymous text that says Amelia didn't jump. Kate subsequently starts her own investigation as to what was going on in her daughters life leading up to her death, which forces the police to re investigate what did happen on that fateful day in October. Each chapter within the novel is split into  the story of  Amelia's life up until her death and those of her mothers determination to get to the truth.  It would appear that Amelia was keeping many secrets from her mother but then she wasn't the only one to have secrets as there were some parts of their lives that Kate had been keeping secret from Amelia too. Now would seem the right time for all these secrets to be revealed. 

This is a very well constructed novel and well worth reading.  Nicole Kidman was so taken with this novel that she is now pursuing the possibility of turning it into a film. Ms. Kidman is set to star and executive produce the project, now in development, through her Blossom Film. That being the case I cannot wait for it's release as I will certainly have it on my list as a must see. 

I would recommend anyone with a teenager to read this novel it will certainly make you wonder whether you do know your teenager as well as you think you do. 


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

When It Happens To You - Molly Ringwald

Product DetailsA mother grapples with age, infertility and an increasingly distant husband as everything she thought she knew is turned upside down.

An elderly woman mourns the loss of her husband, finding an odd friendship with a young girl who cannot possibly understand her loss.

A single mother finds the strength to protect her flamboyant six-year old son as he finds his way in life.

These stories follow the hazardous terrain of everyday life, revealing the deceptions, heartbreak, and vulnerability familiar to us all.

When it happens to you is an unflinching yet poignant examination of the intricacies of the human heart and an auspicious literary debut.

Published by: Simon & Schuster UK - Fiction
Year: 2013 - Paperback
Pages: 380
ISBN: 978-1-47111-349-9

Molly Ringwald's 'When it happens to you' is made up of a series of short stories.  Each story introduces you to the main character/s and each character  is linked to the previous or subsequent story in someway and ultimately  all characters are somehow linked to all the stories. Hope that makes sense.  
It has been very cleverly written in such a way that you get to meet the main characters within the story, for example in Harvest Moon you meet Greta, her husband Phillip and their daughter Charlotte. Having conceived Charlotte without complication. Six years on they have been unable to conceive a second child and have sought medical help in the way of IVF and all the stresses and strains this can put on the strongest of relationships.  In the second you are introduced to Isle O'Hara Greta's mother who still after all these years grieves for the son she lost in a driving accident. In the subsequent stories you are introduced to Marina a single mother and to her eccentric son Oliver who from around the age of four wants to be a girl. Peter Layton whose longest relationship was with a polar bear called Pooka. Betty who is a widow unable to accept the death of her husband Harry,  and lives next door to Charlotte's family and Amanda, Betty's daughter and her partner.  Throughout all the stories there is a common thread of betrayal, lies and deceit and that through all of this it is hoped that all the lives affected within each of the stories will eventually find harmony and happiness.

Very well written by Molly Ringwald best known as a Hollywood A-lister and fast becoming as well known for her literary talents as well as her acting ones.  I would certainly recommend this as a good read and will add to the list of authors whose work I will look out for in the future. 

When it Happens to You is the fifth book from my challenge to read the 13 out of 26 books that were in residence on my book shelf at Christmas by the end of June so almost but not quite half way. 

Happy reading one and all.


Friday, 14 February 2014

Ten Pound Ticket - A Short Story - Amanda Prowse

Product Details
Australia 1962: Susie has just arrived on the boat from England. She is clutching a newborn baby, but has no wedding ring on her left hand.

The land is dusty and hot, and the work is hard and tiring. All Susie wants is to go home. But with no money, and no hope, how can she turn her life around?

Published by: Head of Zeus - Fiction
Year: 2014 - Kindle
Pages 101
ISBN (E): 9781781859384

Having read LoTF I felt I deserved a little treat and decided to read the latest Amanda Prowse short story released on Kindle. 

For those of you who have read 'Clover's Child' you will remember that whilst Dot Simpson was staying in Lavender Lodge she became friends with Susie.  Susie had given birth to twins, a boy and girl.  She had named her son Nicholas and her daughter Abigail.  She was forced to give up her daughter for adoption by the Nuns, but refused to part with her son Nicholas.  Her only hope of keeping him was to accept a ten pound ticket to Australia.  At this time a ten pound passage and sponsorship from someone in Australia was readily available.  Susie took this opportunity in order to keep her son with her.   Not knowing what to expect when she arrived there she was hoping that she would be able to make a fresh start and give Nicholas a good home whilst always hoping that one day she would be able to be reunited with Abigail.  Things aren't quite what she hoped for when she arrives at the sheep station where she will both live and work.  Her sponsor Mitch Gunnerslake turns out to be an older man with few manners and the liking for alcohol.  He constantly tells Susie that she belongs to him now that he has paid for her passage and she spends her first year out there fending off his advances. All Susie wants is to find away of riding herself of this man and longs to return to England.  When her sponsor Mitch Gunnerslake is found dead and his nephew Philip Gunnerslake inherits the sheep station all Susie hopes for is that she will at last be able to break free from this nightmare, but will the nephew be just as bad as his uncle and will she ever be able to escape. 

In our romantic worlds we would all hope that Phillip Gunnerslake would not be like his uncle and that he would fall in love with Susie and they would all live happily ever after, but of course this only happens in fairy tales doesn't it.  But we all know that Amanda lives in the real world and writes her novels and short stories to reflect the hardships of life. In reality Phillip Gunnerslake is married and according to the terms of his uncles will he inherits everything including Susie as part of the fixtures and fittings. Some how Susie realises she has to get her and her young son away from the hell she has been living for the past year. 

I am a real fan of Amanda Prowse novels and short stories.  Within her novels you get to meet her main character and along the way you are introduced to various other characters who together make for a good read.  What I especially like about some of Amanda's short stories is that she will bring back a character from a previous novel and you can almost build a family tree of her characters and how they are linked.   In this particular short story she brings back Susie from 'Clover's Child' a friend of Dot Simpson who you will remember is the grandmother of Poppy Day. Very cleverly written. Who knows at some stage in the future she may well write a short story that includes 'Simon' or 'Peggy and Max'.


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Lord of the Flies - William Golding

A plane crashes on an uninhabited island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast.

In this, his first novel, William Golding gave the traditional adventure story an ironic, devastating twist. The boys' delicate sense of order fades, and their childish ears are transformed into something deeper and more primitive. Their games take on a horrible significance, and before long the well behaved party of schoolboys has turned into a tribe of faceless, murderous savages. 

Published by: Faber & Faber - Fiction
Year: 2012 - Kindle Edition
Pages: 201
ISBN: 978-0571273577 

I first read this book 35+ years ago for O'level English.  At the time I really didn't get this novel at all.  35 years on all I could remember of it was that following a plane crash a number of little boys were left on a deserted island with the only other inhabitants being pigs and at some stage there was a pig's head on a stick that was known as the Lord of the Flies.  When I started out on this challenge, of revisiting books I had read at school, I knew this one would be my nemesis so I decided to take the bull by the horn so to speak and make it my second revisited book.  

Overall it was exactly as I had expected a lot of little boys running round on a deserted island.  It started off pretty well the plane had crashed and initially they had to establish how many of them there were and they came up with a plan of who would be responsible for what jobs, i.e. collecting wood for a fire and looking for food.  They soon established that there were pigs on the island that could provide them with a source of food and built themselves shelters to protect themselves.  But soon two characters especially became adversaries and tensions grew.  'Lord of the Flies'  is a pigs head that is left on a stick and is referred to maybe twice within the book  and not until about chapter 8 and really didn't have much relevance to the story. What I hadn't remembered was how much bullying and violence was included within it which ultimately lead to murder.  The rivalry between Ralph and Jack reaches a climax and leaves Ralph running for his life.  Had the Navy not seen the smoke of their fire and come to the island on a rescue mission Ralph too would of met his demise. 

Second time around I now get that it is supposed to teach you, independence, team work, leadership skills etc....  but there is a certain amount of bullying and violence and ultimately a murder contained within the pages of this novel.

I had thought that perhaps this was now off the list of acceptable reading material for our young people especially as we are constantly telling them that violence is not the answer, but Jenny over at  the  Urban Cottage tells me she is only in her 20's but remembers reading this at school.  I am glad that my own teenagers were not subjected to this particular read.  I still don't think that most 14-16 year olds would have this novel high on their list of must reads and from my distant memory of being a teenage girl it was definitely more for the male brain than the female.  Certainly my daughter would have been more concerned with where she would plug in her straighteners than keeping the camp fire going.  

I can now say that I have re-visited 'Lord of the Flies' it wasn't as bad as I had remembered and I can now say that I understand it's meaning but I don't think it is one I will be keeping on the bookshelf to read again in another 35 years.  

Have any of you read this novel? If so what were your thoughts?

Meanwhile happy reading time one and all.


Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Things We Never Say - Sheila O'Flanagan

Abbey Anderson is the last person to go looking for change. Yes it's tough that she barely sees her mother these days - but in San Francisco she has great friends, a steady relationship and a job she enjoys. If she has regrets, she's dealing with them.

When Abbey is contacted out of the blue by Irish lawyer Ryan Gilligan she learns in an instant everything she believed about her roots is a lie. She must travel to Dublin to find out more - but she's scarcely off the plane when she's plunged into a new crisis. One that will change everything not just for Abbey but for the family in Ireland who had no idea that she even existed.

Now Abbey has to make a choice that will affect everyone she knows. How can she be sure she makes the right one? Who can she trust to advise her? And can life ever be quite the same again.?

Published by: Headline Review - Fiction
Year: 2013 Hardback
Pages: 504
ISBN: 978-0-7553-7843-2

How would you feel if you were suddenly contacted out of the blue and informed that you have inherited a house in Ireland.   Well this is what happened to Abbey Anderson.  Her mother was adopted as a baby and never knew her birth parents.  All these years later Abbey's natural grandfather dies and much to the shock of his children he leaves the house and contents to his illegitimate daughter. He never got over the guilt that he got a young Irish catholic girl pregnant at the age of sixteen and she was sent to a Magdalene laundry. Having read in the newspapers and seen the news reports on the laundries his guilt surfaces once more. With this in mind he makes changes to his will that will change Abbey and her mother's lives forever but at the same time causing a family rift between his other children who knew nothing of the existence of an older sister.   The family contest the will and try and use emotional blackmail to get Abbey and her mother to sign everything over to them.  To make things even harder Abbey's mother lives in a convent and has not seen the outside world for many years and would not see the necessity of having such a large amount of money.

Although much has been written about the Magdalene Laundries it is not referred to in this novel apart from the fact that this is where Abbey's mother is born.  The novel relates more to the internal wranglings of a family in turmoil.  They had no idea of an older sibling but why would they this had all happened before their parents were married.  The fact that their father had harbored such guilt at abandoning his sixteen year old sweetheart was totally unknown to them or even their mother.  With the help of Ryan Gilligan, an Irish Lawyer, Abbey and her mother have big decisions to make as to whether they accept the terms of her late fathers will or whether they do as the family has requested and sign everything over to them.  

I did think at first this was going to be a big romantic story with Abbey and Ryan eventually getting together, and whether that is the case of not I shall not reveal here. But it definitely showed just how families can tear each other a part when there is property and money involved.  

Although this was the first Sheila O'Flanagan novel I have read I thoroughly enjoyed it and found I couldn't put it down staying up reading to the wee small hours to finish another chapter, not a good thing when you get up as early as I do.  

This is my fourth book from my 'Yet to be read' shelf challenge, and It's definitely one I would recommend you to read, especially if you are off on your travels, it would make for a great traveling companion read. 


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Book of the month - January 2014

I have read some really good books over the last month and found myself with a difficult choice as to which book I would call my book of the month,

I absolutely loved reading To Kill A Mocking Bird and wished this had been one I got to read in school in place of some of the others I did, and I would recommend any of you to read it if you never have.

This said I was fully engrossed in The Secret Keeper it was definitely one I could not put down. The way in which Kate Morton had written her novel in four parts each one inextricably linked to the other was shear brilliance.  There will definitely be more Kate Morton's residing on my book shelf/Kindle in the future.

I decided in the end that I just couldn't separate the two and I am therefore going to have a joint book of the month which is a first for me.

Happy reading one and all.