Monthly Archives: May 2016

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little LiesSo, it has been decided that this will be our next book. It takes us longer to choose a new book than it does to review the previous one!! The group is make up of avid readers and therefore to find a book that no one has read before is a mammoth task so , after searching through the Goodreads site and numerous others we came upon this one!

Here’s an extract I found from the Penguin site:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

So there we go. Lounger, suntan cream, nibbles and snacks and who knows, a glass of wine or two, will all be my companions this week while I lounge in the garden reading and basking in the heat of this greatly anticipated heatwave we have been promised. Oh, how I love retirement!!

Outdoor-Living-Trends-to-Transform-Your-Garden

 

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Happy Birthday Book Club / Ruby

happy BirthdayIt’s our birthday this month. A year since the first Neath Book Club meeting and still going strong. We have read a variety of books some good, some not so, some unreadable and some unputdownable!!  Trawl through and read about some the books we have read to date. Our current book is ‘Ruby’ and I’m finding it very difficult to read. There is a very tender love story underlying the gruesome, brutal violation of black women and children by vile, low-life southern scum! This kind of violation makes me so angry that I am unable to read the words on the pages. However, the book is well written and the characters are brought to life with every word. These words echo my thoughts exactly.

‘Exquisite, juxtaposing horrific imagery with dreamy evocative lyricism.’ (Lambda Literary)

So plenty to talk about on Wednesday night. We will be going to the Celtic Lodge (some great reviews on Trip Adviser. Well done Caren and Will!) for food, maybe few drinks and plenty of book discussion, I’m sure. Join our discussion by writing your comments of the book we are currently reading, any of our others or some highly recommended books you may have read at your Book Club.

rubyGreat night! Wonderful food, great venue and outstanding review by everyone!! I finally finished the book and now, looking back, all I can say is what a beautiful piece of literature! Cynthia Bond’s ability to create such profound emotions in the reader is astounding.The writing was magically poetic and lyrical. This is a many layered story which unfolds as the novel develops so that we discover more and more about each character, helping us to understand their being.  Ephram was my favourite. He is a loving and gentle soul with inner strength to love a woman that the community has turned its back on. His love for Ruby, which began at childhood,  is the hope that runs through the novel, turning it from a dark and dismal hopelessness to a hopeful redemption end.

However!!!!!The sheer volume of child-rapes, woman-killings and other truly awful events in this book turned my stomach and made reading the book extremely difficult. If it hadn’t been for Book Club I would not have finished it. The numerous spirits that filled Ruby’s body was incredulous, the times she was raped and abused form the age of 6 was nauseating and vile! But it continued and continued in graphic detail that was really far too much for me to endure and not needed, in my opinion. The continuous accounts of the rape of young children, Ruby herself and then Ephram’s mother,  only contributed to the disturbing discomfort I felt while reading. Did we really need to read this over and over?? Not me. However, the richness of the prose, the development of the characters, especially those of Ephram and Ruby fill us with hope and love in adversity – the worst you could ever imagine, and we end up filled with optimism for their future. I will not ever open this book again though!

Hopefully I will get reviews from the Book Club girls. We all contributed enthusiastically in our discussion before wolfing down some delicious main cuisine followed by decadent , totally not needed, desert!! Yum!!

waffles

A Prayer For Owen Meany

owen meaneyEleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend’s mother. Owen does’t believe in accidents; he believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul is both extraordinary and terrifying. At moments a comic, self-deluded victim, but in the end the principal, tragic actor in a divine plan, Owen Meany is the most heartbreaking hero John Irving has yet created.

This was my choice for our 3rd Book Club meeting. I read it many, many years ago and it left a lasting impression on me. Yes, OK, it’s a tome of a book but what a joy. You need to take your time and read it with patience. Not all of us in club read this book but it certainly caused a lot of lively discussion amongst us all!! Say no more!  Joan, I’m glad to say, loved it and found some laugh out loud moment in it and Julie enjoyed it. I loved it but I think that was about it. Some found it quite a chore to read and took a dislike to Owen. Sob! Sob!

I loved this book. The memory of little,squeaky-voiced Owen Meany will live with me forever. Johnny’s beautiful mother’s demise shocked me and made me cry. Owen’s incident at the Christmas Nativity made me scream with laughter; Johnny moving to Canada and talking religion frustrated me and lost me at times but overlook this and keep persevering as there is a beautiful story to be read here. It’s a delicious mix of comedy and drama and points at the meaning of life, our lives. I find it hard to forget Owen Meany, even now 23 years after reading this book for the first time! I wonder about him, would loved to have known him and became very attached to him. Just thinking about him brings a tightness to my stomach!  He is a complex character and, to me, was a pleasure to know. Everything in his life was planned out. He was the ultimate man with a plan! Not only has he planned his life but he has also scripted Johnny’s life. He guides him and arranges his life for him. But Jonny is not aware of this until the end of the story and the truth dawns on him, but by then I am a blubbering idiot mess!

In my opinion, the religious aspect of the book is heavily embedded throughout and at times, for me, becomes tedious and difficult to read, but  religion and faith are the centre of Owen’s being and so I tolerated it. It’s not so much faith in a religious way but more spiritually and Owen Meany never, ever looses this faith  despite everything that he endures. He is strong in the knowledge that he is an Instrument Of God, who has a mission in life to fulfil and doesn’t have much time to fulfil it.

Owen and Johnny grow very close over the years and see themselves more as brothers. Chalk and cheese, I may add, but bound  by Owen’s faith and his belief in his own purposeful destiny. Hours and hours of reading and observing the 2 characters grow and develop throughout their lives ,  seeing Johnny in his desire to search for his dad, grow into a more confident person, follow his journey to Vietnam and the aftermath of that experience, finally brings us to that split second well rehearsed ‘shot’, when all is revealed and Owen arrives at his destiny.

Looking through some of the reviews on this book I’d like to share one that, to me, mirrors my thoughts and images of A Prayer For Owen Meany.

Nick G rated it 5* 

It was amazing
I'm short on time for this review, but man, this is the closest thing to "a perfect story" as anything I've ever read.

***I'm back a few days later to edit my review, because I can't stop thinking about this book. It might be my favorite. I might be in love with this story. As the first sentence of the story starts out, "I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice...", well, I am, too.

***SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON IN THE REVEIW***

I think I fell in love with book as I read one specific sentence. It's at the end of the story, when Owen and Johnny are in the "temporary bathroom" with the children, and his dream is starting to unfold.

I thought I had it all figured out - the lunatic kid has the grenade and he's going to try and blow them up. But then I read the sentence when Owen looks to Johnny and says something along the lines of "WE'LL HAVE ABOUT FOUR SECONDS". Maybe I was a little slow to catch on, but it was right then that I realized the reason they had always practiced "the shot". It blindsighted me and I loved it. Irving had made their routine practice of "the shot" so commonplace in their time together, that I forgot about even asking what purpose it served being in the story.

But the sentence carries so much more power than that. At the same time I realized the purpose of "the shot", it also hit home how Owen had lived his entire life for that momemt. He had known his fate, his moment, and not only did he embrace it, he had prepared for it. And when it came time to act and live this moment, he didn't flinch. Just as Owen had lived his life for one specific point and time, the power of this story was revealed to me in one perfect sentence.

It gave me THE SHIVERS.

That is a perfect review in a nutshell and I hope Nick G doesn’t mind me sharing it!

You may be interested in listening to this interview with John Irving. It’s long but a great listen!

I Let You Go

“A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?”

i let you go

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating…

I let You Go was our second Book Club book and it was enjoyed by us all. I struggled with it at first and toyed with reading it or not due to the tragic beginning which sets the story but that is all I will disclose! However, I persevered with it and was so glad I did. A  psychological thriller, part crime novel,  follows both a police team and a number of characters through the unraveling of the ‘tragic accident’ twisting and turning, surprising and shocking from beginning to end  and then surprising you even more  with its unsettling ending! This is one of those reads that takes you far too late into the night and leaving you wanting more.

I enjoy a good psychological thriller, and this one for me, fell into the category of excellent ones.

It’s so hard to say too much about the book without giving away too much. The plot is very, very cleverly written, the characters are well developed and the relationships between each one of them are very realistic. I felt I could relate to each of them. I think the author got a bit carried away with the setting or didn’t bother to do too much research into the places as, being from Wales and living near Swansea, there is no way Jenna could have walked from the bus stop to the coast where the people on the caravan site speak only in Welsh to each other and have such Welsh names. Now, had she got off the bus in Cardigan and walked along the Cardigan Bay coast towards Aberystwyth, I may have believed the setting, but please, not Swansea!! That is the only moan I have about this book! It was a great read, full of killer surprises and a powerful message running throughout.

I found this article while researching the author Clare Mackintosh, which I thought you may find interesting to read.

How I write by Clare Mackintosh.

clare mackintosh
 

The way I approach a novel changes all the time, but
 as I start work on my third book I feel I am now beginning to develop some kind of system. I wrote I Let You Go piecemeal, changing and editing as I went along; stopping halfway and rewriting the first section; always looking over what I did the previous day, before continuing. Now I simply press on, getting the first draft down in whatever way I can, until I write The End.Clare Mackintosh

I plan in a notebook first of all, with vague attempts to separate the pages into ‘characters’, ‘settings’, ‘story’, ‘themes’, ‘research’ and so on. Generally these become muddled very quickly, and I’m left with a notebook filled with scribbled pencil marks. I then start making a proper plan in a Word document. I have previously experimented with spreadsheets, and although they make it easy to move scenes around, there is something about a spreadsheet that saps me of creativity! I don’t write a synopsis, but I do write two documents that fall either side of one. The first is a sort of blurb for the book.

Longer than an elevator pitch, but more ‘salesy’ than a synopsis, this is what I send to my editor and agent, and it’s what encapsulates the ‘feel’ of the book, as well as the story concept. The second document is a list of what happens in the story. I could call it timeline, except that would be a slight exaggeration – it’s more of a brain-dump onto a Word document, and it changes all the time. It’s just there to help me capture all the little flashes of story I’ve been thinking about, and hope will find their way into the book.

If there’s research to do, I’ll type up my notes into a separate document, and save everything in neat folders in Dropbox (‘previous drafts’, ‘current draft’, ‘research,’ and so on). I am meticulous about saving previous versions, and so each time I start a rewrite I create a new document and file the old one away. That way nothing is ever lost, and I can see the progress the book makes from draft to draft.

When I’m finally ready to start I open a new Word document and begin. At the start of the writing day – normally before I do the school run, so I can ponder on my dog walk – I look at my rough scene breakdown and start thinking about what that scene will look like. I let it play out in my head, and use ‘dead’ time like swimming, or waiting at the bus stop for the school bus, to plan my writing approach. That way the moment I sit down at my desk I’m ready to start writing the scene. I don’t like to finish work in the middle of a scene, but equally I hate being faced with a blank page the following day, so I tend to leave my manuscript with notes in capitals. FOLLOW THIS WITH THE CAR SCENE, for example, or SHE FINDS THE LETTER, is enough to give me a jump-start when I next look at the page.

My first drafts are short – around 75,000 words – but that no longer worries me. I know now that’s just how I write, and that the rewrite is where I flesh out some of the story, or bring out more of the characters’ back-stories. It takes me about three months to write a first draft, and I like to get a head start on the word count by going on retreat. I go to an amazing place in France called Chez Castillon, where I can write 5,000 words a dayinstead of my usual 2,000, and come home with virtually a third of my story written. As soon as I get home I start looking forward to the next trip…

When I reach the end I print this ‘dirty draft’ out and go through it with a thick red pen. I ignore minor issues and focus first of all purely on plot. Then I read it again, with a different coloured pen, focusing on character. I take my mutilated manuscript back to my desk and start correcting some of the glaring errors I’ve identified. I still consider this my ‘first draft’, and although I make some significant amends at this stage, it’s not as substantial a rewrite as it will need – I just want to tidy it up so that it’s in pretty good shape for when my editor sees it.

After a long chat with my editor, the hard work really begins! I start a new worddocument, and literally write the book again. There’s a fair amount of copying and pasting, but generally I’ve found that I produce much better work if I write from scratch, using the previous draft as inspiration. So I often have both versions on my computer screen, side by side, clearly labelled as I have a horror of saving the wrong one! I work my way through chronologically, swearing liberally when I reach the middle, and it feels like a pack of cards about to come tumbling down.

I repeat this process as many times as it takes to get it right, and although I could cry with frustration at times, I can see each draft getting stronger and stronger, and it makes it all worthwhile. Just about!
“I Let You Go” book review & “How I Write” by Clare Mackintosh.

We were 7 members at the meeting and the conversation was quite lively. I had prepared a ‘high tea’ for us with a variety of sandwiches, and other members contributing to some savouries and cakes. The pleasure of Book Club lies in the gastronomic delighted as well as the written word! Click on the picture if you would like to know more about throwing an afternoon tea!

How-to-Throw-An-Amazing-Summer-Afternoon-Tea-Party1-700x467   Please post your reviews of this book on this blog.