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Posts Tagged ‘family’

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Paul Morris is a compulsive liar – he lies about his success as a writer, the flat he lives in, his prowess with women; he lies to the people he meets, he lies to himself; he lies about his past, he lies about his future. And he manages to lie his way into a crowd of friends who he once knew briefly, starts a romance with the enigmatic Alice, and wangles his way into joining them for a holiday in Greece. But there are secrets lingering below the surface with these friends – a decade old mystery about a missing girl, and further events which take place during the holiday, all of which cause more trouble for Paul as his lies entangle him further and further into a web of deceit bigger than his own.

I really enjoyed this book, but unfortunately it’s really hard to review without giving away any spoilers. And I REALLY do not want to give away any spoilers, because this is a story with the power to really shock, if you do not know what’s coming.

The narrator is Paul himself, who is actually largely honest with the reader; he openly shares the fact that he lies to everyone else. It’s true that he isn’t very likeable, but it’s fair to say that none of the other characters are particularly likeable either. Alice is somewhat distant, and hard to read, and I was never able to warm to her. Paul’s old friend Andrew is frankly unbearable, and Andrew’s wife Tina, while nicer than the others, is basically a side character with very little to say for herself.

The build up to the climax of the story is fairly slow, but this didn’t bother me. It was well written and I wanted to keep reading to see what would happen. Small and seemingly inconsequential parts of the story did turn out to have a greater significance at the end, and I thought the ending itself was very cleverly done.

If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, and don’t mind a protagonist who you probably won’t want to root for, I would highly recommend this book.

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This novel is set over the course of one day, and it starts with Nathan Clark being a witness at his own funeral. His wife, father, children and best friend are all there, along with two people who he can’t identify. Unable to remember how he died, and unable to rest until he can remember, Nathan watches his family from some kind of afterlife, and remembers fragments of their life together while he tries to piece together exactly what has happened to him.

I loved the premise of this book, but I think I was expecting it to be more of a mystery or psychological thriller than it actually was. Instead it’s more of a slow burner – the first part in particular is very fragmented with Nathan being thrown from one scene or memory into another. Sentences end halfway through to reflect half remembered scenes from Nathan’s life, and suddenly he is flung to another time, another place.

There is no doubt that the writing is very elegant, and occasionally exquisite. I loved the idea behind the novel, but somehow despite this I never quite became enthralled by it. I was interested enough to keep reading, and like Nathan, I wanted to find out how he died but in the end, that wasn’t really the point. We find out early on that his youngest daughter Lois died some time before, and although initially Nathan can’t remember how she died, the answer to this particular question is revealed – and that’s when pennies drop and things start falling into place.

I did find this book an easy read despite the heavy subject matter, but I never quite managed to connect with any of the characters. Nathan’s wife Cheryl may have been the love of his life, but for my money she was downright unlikeable – same goes for his best friend Adrian, and his father Frank. I did quite like his two children Gina and Luke, but I never felt that we really got to know them well enough – especially not Luke, who is relegated to something of a background character.

Overall though, while I can’t give this book a definite thumbs up, it’s also not a thumbs down. I would be intrigued to read more by this author.

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Alison, Jeff and their 15 year old daughter Katherine, have a happy and charmed life. They have money, security and genuinely love each other. Katherine is a school lacrosse star, an excellent student, and a popular girl. She is also the absolute centre of her mother’s universe – so that universe feels torn apart when one day a man knocks at their door and tells Alison that Katherine is the biological daughter of him and his deceased wife – it turns out that there was a mix up at the hospital, and that Alison and Jeff are the biological parents of his daughter Olivia. Even worse, Katherine may have inherited the gene that caused the cancer which killed his wife.

The family are thrust into a nightmare as Katherine comes to terms with new siblings, a new history, and worst of all trying to decide whether to take the test which will determine whether she has the dangerous gene.

I wanted to read this book for two reasons – first I thought the premise sounded really interesting. Second, I had read another book by Adele Parks many years ago, and had really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, The Stranger In My Home turned out to be a bit of a let down.

I listened to the novel as an audiobook, read by Rachel Atkins. Overall her narration was good, but there were a lot of whispered parts which made it difficult to hear, and I had to go back a little on quite a few occasions to listen again. (Now, admittedly I listen to my audiobooks when I’m out running, so there is traffic and other outside noises around, but I doubt that I am particularly unusual in listening to a book outside.)

The main reason I couldn’t really enjoy the book was the main character. Alison is the narrator for the most part – there is the occasional flashback to her early life, which is an attempt to explain her devotion to her daughter…I say devotion, but it’s actually more like an obsession. Of course mothers love their children more than it is possible to express, but my goodness this was one obsessed mother. And she never missed an opportunity! By the end of the book I was quite sick of hearing Katherine’s name.

The other problem was that after the initial shock, the book slowed down to a snail’s pace and for ages nothing really happened except teenagers being moody and Alison obsessing about her daughter. In the last part of the book, there is a sudden plot twist, which unfortunately struck me as preposterous, but nonetheless did come as a complete surprise. But for me it was much too little and way too late.

I didn’t hate this book enough to give up on it, but for some reason I feel able to listen to audiobooks even while finding them less than enjoyable. And despite my more scathing than I intended review, it wasn’t awful. it was just far from what it could have been and basically underwhelming.

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This is the story of two New York sisters – Meghan Fitzmaurice is America’s favourite breakfast television anchor, while younger sister Bridget is a social worker, trying to help women from the Bronx projects find a better life. The sisters are good friends, and life seems to be coasting along nicely – until the day that Meghan, not realising that she is still on air, swears on live television and her career and personal life both go into freefall.  The fallout affects not just Meghan, but her husband Evan and their teenage son Leo.

Narrated by Bridget, the story takes in not just the aftermath of Meghan’s error, but is also a love letter of sorts to New York, and a history of the two sisters’ lives as well as their relationships with the men – and other people – in their lives.

I wasn’t too sure what to make of this book. On the one hand, I definitely think Anna Quindlen is a talented writer and I found myself reading large chunks in one go which is always a good sign (a bad sign is when I put a book down after a few pages and look for something else to distract myself). On the other hand….I felt slightly removed from the action. This was not one of those books where you feel excited to find out what will happen next and neither did I really care about any of the characters. Although the on-air gaffe was entirely unbelievable, the incredible over-reaction to it was not so much. I didn’t warm to Meghan much at all, and possibly this was because the story was narrated by Bridget – even though Bridget is possibly her sister’s biggest supporter. I think it was an interesting idea to have the sister as the narrator, but it would have been quite nice to see Meghan’s point of view, even if perhaps they alternated chapter narrations.

From other reviews I’ve read it seems that fans of Quindlen’s other books were largely disappointed with this one. For me, this was actually the first book of hers that I’ve read and I would probably be interested in trying another on the back of it.

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The word ‘legend’ is bandied about too frequently these days – I’ve seen it used to describe reality tv stars, YouTube ‘stars’ and all manner of others which in truth it should not be used for – but sometimes the word is entirely fitting and Bruce Springsteen is one of those people truly deserving of the title. Whether you like his music or not, his songs are familiar to all, for their stories of blue-collar working class families and their struggles, from the anti-Vietnam protest song Born in the USA, to the Oscar winning Streets of Philadelphia from the groundbreaking 1993 Tom Hanks film about AIDS.

Bruce’s autobiography is a joy to read – not only does he discuss his own working class, blue collar background, and his rise to success, he is also amazingly candid about his struggles with depression and anxiety. He talks with obvious love and gratitude about his wife Patti Scialfa and their three children, and with open-ness about his troubled relationship with his father, who nonetheless he loved and loves very deeply.

His passion for his craft comes through on every page (no surprise to anyone who has listened to his music), as well as his enduring friendships with the many people who he has played with and alongside. I loved that he was starstruck, even at the height of his own success, when meeting the Rolling Stones!

Again – this will be no surprise for anyone who listens to Bruce’s lyrics – but he is a very talented author, likeable and amusing, and unapologetic…not that he has anything to be apologetic about. I always felt that Bruce was one of the good guys, and this book reinforces that view.

If you are a fan of Bruce Springsteen, or if you just really like reading autobiographies, I highly recommend this one.

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Joe Clarke, a married father-of-two wakes up in bed with Bella, the beautiful young intern at his office, and realises that he  must have been unfaithful to his wife Penny. This is disconcerting because (a) Joe is certainly not the unfaithful type, and (b) he can’t remember anything about his infidelity or how he ended in Bella’s bed. From this opening, the story goes on to relate the consequences of Joe’s infidelity, and the unravelling of his life. Added to all that is the reappearance of his horrible college ex-girlfriend – who died a few weeks earlier…

I have read and enjoyed Mike Gayle books before – in fact he is one of those authors that I would confidently buy a book by, because I know I am going to enjoy it. Except…while i can’t say I hated this one, it definitely was not up to his usual standard. It seemed to just go round in circles – Joe and Penny would come close to making up and then drift further apart, over and over again. I felt like telling them to make up their bloody minds one way or the other! I also felt that the ghost aspect of the story was a slant that didn’t quite work for me. The whole thing reminded me of the film Sliding Doors meets the tv show Life on Mars – but it wasn’t as cleverly done as either of those.

It was fairly undemanding – I listened to the audiobook and the narrator David Morley Hale, did do a good job. I also liked the three friends of Joe’s – Van Halen (yes really!), Steve and Paul and was far more interested in their interactions than the ones with his family (don’t get me wrong, I liked and understood Penny’s character, but their story just seemed to go round in circles).

I would read another Mike Gayle book, but only because I have enjoyed other novels by him. Had this been the first book I had tried by him, I wouldn’t pick up another one.

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This show opens with a voiceover warning people of a nervous disposition that platforms and white lycra are worn during this production. This somewhat sets the tone for the whole show – humour, colour, energy and of course some terrifically ABBA-esque costumes.

The storyline is simple enough – Sophie Sheridan and her mother Donna live in Greece. Sophie is getting married and wants to meet her father…the only problem is that she doesn’t know who her father is out of three potential candidates, so she invites all three without her mother’s knowledge. Naturally, chaos ensues as past memories are raked up. And when you throw together Donna’s best and oldest friends Rosie and Tanya, three men who have no idea why they have been invited to the wedding, and a host of young men and women, there is bound to be action, raunch and a little romance…

Accompanied by some of ABBA’s best known and loved songs – including Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me, Lay All Your Love On Me, Money Money Money, Does Your Mother Know? and of course the title track – this is such a fantastically feel-good show that it did not surprise me one bit when there was a standing ovation at the end, with audience members dancing in the aisles.

Helen Hobson was great as Donna, and Gillian Hardie and Emma Clifford were wonderful as Rosie and Tanya respectively. In the performance I saw, Sophie was played by first understudy Blaise Colangelo, who was ideal for the part – so loveable and sweet. The three possible fathers were Sam played by Jon Boyden, Bill played by Christopher Hollis, and Harry played by Jamie Hogarth. Their three distinct characters were portrayed excellently.

I don’t see how anyone could fail to enjoy this show, and the beaming faces on the audience as they left the theatre were testament to what a wonderful time everyone had. If you get chance to see this production, do yourselves a favour and buy some tickets!

 

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