Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Year in Books April

My April reads started off on my kindle. In 2013 I read Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper. It was brilliant so I knew I would at some stage catch up with other works of Kate Morton. The House at Riverton takes us back to the Summer of 1924 when on the eve of a glittering society party tragedy strikes when a young poet takes his own life. The only witnesses two sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford who never speak to one another again. In the Winter of 1999 Grace Bradley one-time housemaid at Riverton House now aged 98 is approached by a young TV director to tell her story of life at Riverton.  In telling her story Grace fears that she will reveal secrets that had long been forgotten even though Grace never could.  I have to say this was another book I just could not put down.  I was going away for a few days and thought with 612 pages this book would last me the duration.  How wrong was I.  I just couldn't put it down and could be found reading it as every given opportunity.  I like the style that Kate Morton uses combining the present with the past so effortlessly.  I have another two books by this author which I feel sure I will enjoy in equal amounts.

The Shock of the Fall - Nathan Filer. This is the story of Matthew who suffers with Schizophrenia. The narrative is told by Matthew himself. He begins by telling you about his brother Simon, who is three years older than himself and has down syndrome.  Whilst on a family holiday Simon has a fatal accident.  I'm not giving too much away here as you learn this on the first page.   This appears to be the beginning of Matthews illness.  He goes on to describe how the death of his brother not only affected him but his parents and extended family from the age of 8 through to adulthood.  The sad reality is that there are many adults with this illness and although Nathan Filer's book highlights the condition giving more insight on mental health and the loss of a family member, I am not sure whether it would benefit them. I know it has been critically acclaimed and has won numerous awards especially as this is a debut novel.  It was because of this that I wanted to read it but in all honesty I can't say that I agreed with all the hype. I am sure there will be others of you who will think it was absolutely brilliantly written and you may well be right. It may just be that this one just isn't for me. Sorry....

Watch Over Me - Daniela Sacerdoti. Eilidh and James were best friends as children, then Eilidh moved away.  Their lives took different paths. James fell in love and had a child Maisie who is now the love of his life. The relationship with her mother though didn't work out and now James raises his daughter alone. Eilidh is in a marriage in trouble.  With five failed IVF attempts the last resulting in a miscarriage has left Eilidh desperate, whilst her cheating husband has sort solace in another. Eilidh decides to go away for awhile. She packs a bag leaves a note for her husband and her parents and sets off not knowing quite what direction she will go.  She finds herself heading towards the little village in Scotland where she spent her early years and the place she felt the safest. Her aunty Peggy is over the moon when Eilidh knocks at her door and insists she stay with her for as long as she felt necessary.  Eilidh and James paths cross, as they do in all good romances, and even though it was a bit of a will they won't they  and a few dramas along the way you secretly hope that they will find love again in each other. It was a lovely romantic interlude in my Spring reading selection of books.  I hadn't read anything by this author before and it popped up in as a kindle special and I liked the story line. I have another novel by this author on my kindle and look forward to reading that one soon.

Ring of Bright Water - Gavin Maxwell has been my return to my childhood read for April. I don't remember what age I would of been when I first read Gavin Maxwells memoir of living in a remote cottage in Scotland with his Otter Mijbil (Mij for short).  I had long forgotten that Mij was not a native Otter and that in fact Gavin Maxwell had bought him back from Basra after visiting Iraq.  When he first arrived back in England Maxwell lived in a flat in London which he soon realised was not the ideal place to have an otter.  He got in touch with a friend of his in Scotland who ran an estate and happened to have a cottage that was in need of renovation but would be ideal for Maxwell and his companion.  Maxwell lived there with Mij for a little over a year when sadly Mij died.  Maxwell did go on to have other otters whilst he lived at Camusfearna but none could take the place of his beloved Mij.  There are three books in all but I chose to read the first and most famous Ring of Bright Water. It was Ring of Bright Water that went on to be made into a film of the same name starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers.

Now I know I am voracious reader but it was at this point that I have to tell you that having pulled a muscle in my back due to coughing, I have spent time in bed propped up on pillows as it was the only way in which to get comfortable.  Having caught up on all my catch up TV what else do you do in this situation but read.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by  Anna McPartlin  tells the story of Mia Hayes, known as Rabbit, who has been battling against breast cancer for the last four years.  We meet Rabbit as she is coming to the end of her journey.  Although the title is The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes the story essentially is centered around Rabbits family and friends and how they are dealing with the prospect of loosing their daughter, sister, mother and friend, revisiting childhood memories and growing up in Dublin. Although this is obviously a very emotive subject  Anna McPartlin has written it with such sensitivity but at the same time with a lot Irish humour thrown in.  I hadn't read anything by this author before and this one  was given to me for my birthday by a very good friend who knows the my type of reading  very well. In fact my friends are getting to know what I like just a little too well as I ended up with two copies for my birthday but that was soon remedied by way of a quick exchange. I absolutely loved this book and would definitely recommend it.   It is definitely up there as one of the best books I have read so far this year and I will definitely be looking at other novels written by this author.

The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd Set in the 1800's in Charleston South Carolina Sarah Grimke is the middle daughter who lives with her parents and 10 siblings.  On her 11th birthday she is appalled when she is presented with her own slave as gift. A young girl the same age as Sarah called Handful (Hetty) Grimke.  Sarah is set to cause herself a heap of trouble in her belief that slavery should be abolished.   Sarah's one true goal is to be able to make Hetty a free women. Each of the girls stories are told in alternating chapters following their contrasting lives from young girls to middle aged women.  Although fiction The Invention Wings is based on the life of Sarah and Angelina Grimke who eventually became orators, educators and Quakers who became the first American women advocates of abolition and women's rights.   This is the second Sue Monk Kidd novel I have read and it was every bit as good as the first.  If you have an interest in area of history it is definitely worth reading.

Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig was 24 when his world came crashing down. He had never experienced any episodes of depression and anxiety before. He describes the day all that changed as being 'the day the old me died'.  It has taken Matt Haig thirteen years to be able to write his account of how living with depression affected his life and how eventually he got to the point where he could live with it.  For anyone who has had depression and anxiety, myself included, they will tell you that you never feel completely free from it, it is always there bubbling away beneath the surface, you just have to take control of it rather than it taking control of you. For the most part that works, the downside being that you have to have traveled that path in the first place in order to know.  Matt Haig is now an accomplished writer and lives with his wife Andrea, who has been by his side throughout his journey, and their two children.   I first heard of this book when listening to Simon Mayo's Radio Two book club, whilst travelling home from work. For anyone who doesn't listen to his show he invites authors on to his show to be interviewed about their latest work and listeners are picked at random to read and give their opinion on the upcoming read.  Matt Haig was very honest about how he had got through the dark days of depression and how he is now thirteen years on.  The listener reviews were very positive. I decided that if I were to spot a copy of the book I would get it and I am glad that I did.

My Sisters Keeper - Jodi Picoult had been residing on my bookshelf for sometime.  I had seen the film years before with my daughter.  Having read the book herself my daughter passed it on to me with the comment, the ending is completely different to that of the film and you'll never guess what happens at which point I stopped her otherwise there would have been no point in reading the book.   It was because I had her words still firmly fixed in my brain that I then put off reading it until now so as not to spoil my enjoyment of reading the book.  Even though I knew the storyline I was still engrossed in the book and finished it within three days.  For anyone who doesn't know the story it is set around the Fitzgerald family. Mum Sara is a Lawyer but hasn't practiced since she had her children, Dad is a Fireman and then there are the three children, Jesse who is the eldest at 18, Kate 16 and Anna 13.  For most of Kate's life she has suffered with a rare form of Leukaemia.  Anna was conceived as donor baby when Kate initially relapsed and the cord cells from Anna were used to save Kate.  At that time it was thought that this would be the only time Anna would need to donate but Kate went onto relapse again and each time Anna was used as her donor.  At the stage where we meet the family for the first time Kate has gone into renal failure from all the treatments she has endured. Their mother assumes that Anna will wish to donate a kidney and is therefore shocked when Anna instructs a lawyer to sue her parents for medical emancipation.  As with all Picoult books you get to know each of the characters within their own chapters and each flows to the next effortlessly.  She is definitely becoming one of my favourite authors and as she is such a prolific writer I still have many more to choose from.

Time to Say Goodbye - Katie Flynn sees three young girls evacuated from Liverpool to the country during the war. They stay with the local publican and her neice.  The story follows the girls adventures and the friendships they make. Although they have exchanged Christmas cards over the years they haven't seen each other in 20 years. At the time you don't know what path the girls lives have taken in that time  In the first chapter we meet Immi decides to invite her friends to a 20 year reunion. It is whilst she waiting for her friends to arrive that she reminisces about her time in the country and so their stories begin to unfold.  I did enjoy this novel, but I did feel it was a little slow in places and in some instances a little The Famous Five but without the lashings of ginger beer.

The Kid - Sapphire.  As part of my March reads I read the book PUSH by this author. It was the novel PUSH that inspired the film Precious. At the end of PUSH Precious Jones is left raising her son and seems to have her life back on track even though she has been diagnosed with HIV.  At the beginning of her sequel The Kid you discover that Precious has lost her battle against her illness and the opening chapter is set with her nine year old son preparing to attend his mothers funeral and not quite understanding whats happening.  I was in my naivety hoping that all would come good for JJ.  I had found PUSH to be quite harrowing at times but nothing had prepared me for how harrowing and how graphic in her descriptions of sexual abuse were going to be in the sequel.

The Boy That Never Was - Karen Perry is the last of my April reads. It is another recommendation through Simon Mayo's book club.  Harry and Robin lost their 3 year old son Dillon during an earthquake in Tangiers, his little body was never found. Five years on they are now living back in Ireland when Harry sees a boy of eight or nine and is convinced that this boy is his son.  This is a brilliantly written novel and I was hooked from the first page to the last.  I never saw the drama program 'Missing' that was shown recently but from what I have been told if you enjoyed 'Missing' you will definitely enjoy  The Boy That Never Was.  From other reviews this novel is also known as 'The Innocent Sleep' not sure why the two different titles unless it depends on which country you reside.  Karen Perry has another novel out in June and it will definitely be on my wish list.

As per usual I have picked a book of the month.  Even though I have read so many great books again this month there was definitely one that that stood out and that was

Anna McPartlin

Happy reading one and all.



Just to remind you that I am taking part in Laura's The Year in Books Project 2015 and if you would like to know more information about taking part then click on the link below.

Circle of Pine Trees