Overdrawn – N J Crosskey

cover171105-medium

TITLE: OVERDRAWN

AUTHOR: N J CROSSKEY

PUBLISHER: LEGEND PRESS

ISBN: 9781789550214

 

NO SPOILERS

Publisher’s description:

Henry Morris is watching his wife slip away from him. In an ageist society, where euthanasia is encouraged as a patriotic act, dementia is no longer tolerated.

Kaitlyn, a young waitress, is desperate for the funds to keep her brother’s life support machine switched on.

 When a chance encounter brings the two together, they embark on an unconventional business arrangement that will force them to confront their prejudices, as well as their deepest, darkest secrets.

I enjoy dystopian fiction and from the description of Overdrawn I expected a mildly dystopian novel. As I began to read, I realised this dystopia was not going to be mild yet the book never really gets there; it is alluded to but not expanded on, which for me, was a disappointment. However, disappointment in a story can often be overlooked if there is skill in the telling.

Now, normally if I do not enjoy a book, I can at least appreciate it and I am aware there are many others who will love it. I understand an author has given much of their time and honed their craft for the benefit of their readers and I respect this. But I am sorry to have to say I cannot find anything to appreciate in this book. The language is very simple, which, of course, is not always a bad thing but in this case, for me, it needed to be morecomplex to compensate for the tediously predictable plot. The insertion of backstories and explanations was awkward and clunky. The thoughts of characters, their personal wranglings and realisations were clumsy. Descriptions often felt like afterthoughts added to reach a word count. There is also some very uncomfortable grammar.

I felt Crosskey could have made more of the new society, the new rules and the wider impact. This book focuses on a very small group, really just two characters, their situations, their clumsily written thoughts and the slow dawning of their realities; painfully slow. The circumstances of the story could be the basis for a wonderful book but this story could have been set in any era or society and it feels like a waste of a good idea.

Having said all that, I am not sure who the intended audience is. The language and style are suited to young teen (though some of the subject matter may not be) so perhaps that audience it is not me…actually, it is definitely not me!

Thank you to NetGalley and Legend Press for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

 

Advertisements

The Binding – Bridget Collins

TheBinding

TITLE: THE BINDING

AUTHOR: BRIDGET COLLINS

PUBLISHER: THE BOROUGH PRESS

ISBN: 978-0008272111

 
NO SPOILERS

The description of this book appealed to me and the cover struck me as beautiful so I was pleased to beable to review it. However, after some time I marked it as Will Not Give Feedback but then realised my given reasons for this were valid as the basis of a brief review; so here it is!

The Binding completely failed to hold my interest but I knew others were enjoying it so I persevered. Now, reading should be a joy, whether entertaining or informing, engaging or disturbing and to me, this was simply irritating and reluctantly I decided, I should abandon it. It is rare for me not to finish a book intended for review and unheard of not to write that review and now I have made amends.

I can only say it proved to be a genre and style which I do not enjoy, though I am sure others will find it spellbinding. And how lovely that we all have different tastes and preferences; if we didn’t, how would we find new favourites?

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

 

The Man Who Saw Everything – Deborah Levy

image

TITLE: THE MAN WHO SAW EVERYTHING

AUTHOR: DEBORAH LEVY

PUBLISHER: HAMISH HAMILTON

ISBN: 978-0241268025

Selected for the Booker Prize 2019 Long List at time of review.

NO SPOILERS

“It’s like this, Saul Adler:” is a beautiful though slightly vain historian who travels to East Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall for research purposes, maybe…

Narrated by Saul, within the first few pages there are incongruities, anachronisms and impossible insights which do raise suspicions and certainly pique one’s curiosity. He is clearly going to be an unreliable narrator but why? There is some depiction of life in GDR, which I had thought was going to be the point of the book, but I was not disappointed to find it was merely the setting, albeit an important one.

The story is presented in two parts, 28 years apart, with the latter giving the explanation, (more or less, but which?) for Saul’s unreliability, although with still enough lack of confirmation to make this a very thought provoking read.

Levy’s/Saul’s style is gentle, full of pathos, rhythmic and lulling. It is an easy, quick read which means reading it twice is not a chore and in my opinion, highly recommended. I found the second reading absolutely fascinating once I had the knowledge of the first reading. With that knowledge, the small, seemingly insignificant observations become proof of Levy’s skill. No fireworks, no action but a perfect example of how the sympathies of the reader change when we have more of the picture, when we are able to see everything.

One thing though; vegans do not eat honey…just saying!

Thank you to NetGalley and Hamish Hamilton for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

 

Target: Alex Cross – James Patterson

target

TITLE: TARGET: ALEX CROSS

AUTHOR:  JAMES PATTERSON

PUBLISHER: CENTURY

ISBN: 978-1780895178

 

Target: Alex Cross tells of a series of co-ordinated, daring assassinations which lead to unprecedented political events in America. Alex Cross is part of the team trying to identify and stop those who are responsible. Unfortunately, I did not care who was behind the assassinations and I wasn’t bothered who was next on the list.

I know James Patterson is a very popular author and I know Alex Cross is a very popular character, both on paper and in film, so I was happy and eager to read this; apparently it is the 26th Alex Cross novel, so it must be good. But I’m sorry Century, this just did not grab me in any way though I don’t doubt others will be gripped.

The writing is not wordy nor crafted but the story is told in a simple “this, then this, then that and then this” way, which I know some readers love. However, it is not trashy, nor is it poorly written but for me, it felt like a list of events and even seeing Morgan Freeman in my mind’s eye didn’t help.

There was a side plot which seemed to be leading somewhere slowly but when it did conclude it was irrelevant and disappointing. There was an interesting character introduced who then left and of whom no more was heard. I’m not sure why she appeared, unless it helped with the word count but I would not have thought such a prolific author would need to do this; perhaps she’ll reappear in a later novel.

But, but, but…this is only my opinion, albeit an honest one. The genre is not one I lean towards but I know many of you do and many of you will probably wonder how I did not love it. We all have different tastes which allows many divers authors a readership and bookstores full of books for everyone.

I think the fault with Target is simply that it is not my preferred genre and it did not convert me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Century for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

 

Eggshells – Catriona Lally

Eggshells

TITLE: EGGSHELLS

AUTHOR:  CATRIONA LALLY

PUBLISHER: HARPER COLLINS

ISBN: 978-0008324407

NO SPOILERS

 

In 2018 Eggshells by Catriona Lally won The Rooney Prize; a prize for Irish writers under the age of 40, writing in Irish or English. I’m not familiar with the prize and have no idea of the shortlist but Eggshells would get my vote regardless.

Socially inept Vivian, who has an almost estranged sister also named Vivian (yep!), lives in the house of her late aunt. Her parents are both dead but not missed. She spends her days trying to do as little harm as possible and trying to be like other people. But she is not like other people; she is a changeling and frequently searches for the portal which will take her back to fairy land. Yet this is not a frivolous fairy tale and she, of course, not a changeling.

Who Vivian is, is someone who sees the world differently from the accepted norm and her observations and insight will make you see things from a different perspective, too; sometimes, a better perspective. She is obsessed with lists (butterfly names, plants, old cities, favourite food, conversation topics) and the visual aspect of speech. If her name is shortened, she prefers to “hear” VIV or viv, because it is symmetrical. Such quirks certainly made me think about words as more than a means of communication but an entity in their own right.

Vivian’s attempt at a dinner party, her attempts at conversation, her frequent bus journeys, befriending mice and one particular taxi ride had me questioning how we perceive those who do not conform and had me laughing, often out loud.

Eggshells is a quick, very entertaining and fairly easy read but it is also a complex comment on how difficult life can be for some and the ways they find to cope.  It is funny, it is sad, it is rather brilliant.

And why doesn’t Penelope rhyme with antelope?

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

Bridge of Clay – Markus Zusak

BoC

TITLE: BRIDGE OF CLAY

AUTHOR: MARKUS ZUSAK

PUBLISHER: DOUBLEDAY

ISBN: 978-0857525956

NO SPOILERS

Bridge of Clay is the story of the Dunbars, Michael and Penelope and their five sons, told by the oldest, Matthew. Well, that sounds dull, doesn’t it? But this is such an overwhelmingly insightful novel, so beautifully written with pathos, humour and love that it is as far from dull as it could be. The loves, the losses (heartbreaking at times), the anger, the hanging on, the resolution, the absolution…and all without any sickly sentimentality.

I loved Zusak’s The Book Thief for his non-patronising understanding and recounting of a difficult subject. Bridge of Clay has that same empathetic assuredness. The writing is that of Matthew but the perspective is from all, collectively and individually…even the mule. The story runs backwards and forwards and sideways, always revealing a little more of the hows and whys of the now. A quarter of the way through I literally lost the plot and had to start again but then I hardly put it down. I feel I know every character, they are so heartbreakingly real. The intimate detail is perfectly told and no observation is throwaway…all is important and will stay with me for a very long time.

This book was long time coming and is a masterpiece…I don’t say that lightly. Part of me wishes I had not read it so I still had it to read.

I think if a Dunbar boy has got your back then all is well…you really do have to love them.

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

The Little Snake – A L Kennedy

51LckyqdrpL

TITLE: THE LITTLE SNAKE

AUTHOR:  A. L. KENNEDY

PUBLISHER: CANONGATE BOOKS

ISBN: 978-1786893864

NO SPOILERS

 

Having not read anything by A L Kennedy before, I was not sure if this was going to be a book for children or adults but I know now that it is wonderful for all.

Mary (I like that the name is simple and classic) is befriended by a beautiful, mysterious, golden snake whom she chooses to call Lenmo…she has a choice from several names. It is a friendship which lasts a lifetime in spite of the snake’s purpose.

The writing is simple yet detailed, rhythmic, beautiful, magical and charming…not unlike the snake. The allusions are strong, giving this delightful story the air of a fable.

But, and for me there is a but, this book deserves a better written final chapter as it feels rushed and careless. The magic is missing and compared to the rest it reads like a quick draft. Don’t let this put you off though…the rest more than makes up for it.

But, (here’s another but) I read this in one afternoon and was totally absorbed. This book would be ideal for a reading group; it is short but exceptionally sweet and Lenmo asks many questions we should perhaps all ask ourselves. There is much here to inspire discussion,  of both the style and the comment. (It also has a gorgeous cover, which is somewhat rare these days!)

So, do take an afternoon to put the kettle on or open a bottle and sit undisturbed with The Little Snake. It will leave a smile on your lips and questions on your mind. (Snakes have no lips…)

Thank you to NetGalley and Canongate for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

Love is Blind – William Boyd

LIB
TITLE: LOVE IS BLIND

AUTHOR: WILLIAM BOYD

PUBLISHER: VIKING

ISBN: 978-0241295939

NO SPOILERS

 

Whilst always being aware of William Boyd and thinking I knew what type of writer he is, Love is Blind is the first novel of his which I have read. I had assumed (I have no idea why) he was similar to Graham Greene, a contemporary author writing intelligently, with insight and comment. I was not too far off the mark although for me Boyd does not match up, but who does? However, I did like this book…very much.

Set at the turn of the twentieth century, Love is Blind is the story of Brodie Moncur, an unassuming, dependable, loyal piano tuner/repairer/customizer whose skills take him on an improbable yet wholly believable journey. He falls for Lika, head over heels, utterly consumed by his love for her. I found her manipulative and self-serving but love is blind indeed.

Having expected Mr Greene (why?) it took me a couple of chapters to pick up on the rhythm of Boyd’s writing but once I did it flowed at just the right pace. It is not a page turner but I was willing the plot to go my way and was eager to reach each conclusion, of which there are many before the final end.

Written in thethird person, there is a great deal of detail, none of which is superfluous, all of which is fascinating. Boyd’s characterisation is well observed and non-judgemental, allowing the characters to judge each other and the reader to do likewise. It is very much a comment on the human condition, good and bad, love, loyalty, greed, envy, revenge, desire…it’s all there!

I would happily read more of Boyd’s novels, although there may always be other authors higher up my “To Be Read” list and there are so many books and so little time…

Thank you to NetGalley and Viking for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

The Water Cure

41GhMOZv05L._SY346_

TITLE: THE WATER CURE

AUTHOR:  SOPHIE MACKINTOSH

PUBLISHER: PENGUIN

ISBN: 978-0-24198301-0

NO SPOILERS

 

The Water Cure is the debut novel of Sophie Mackintosh and has, at the time of my writing, been long listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, and deservedly so.

It is the story of…I don’t know. A sect? Refuge? Retreat? Cult? Fantasy? A failed utopia in a supposedly dystopian world? All of the above and then some…I think. I do not know what genre fits it…mystery mixed with philosophy perhaps. It is definitely the story of three sisters raised in isolation from the toxic outside world with rituals to protect, cleanse and heal. Anymore detail and I will spoil it for you.

Told in the voices of Grace, Lia and Sky (a device I especially love), it is written in the present tense, which I find always heightens the reader’s awareness of a character’s emotions and creates a sense of urgency. It also makes the reader feel involved.

This is not a quick “beach book” though I did read it quickly as I did not want to be away from it. The prose is beautiful, atmospheric with not a single word wasted. It is highly evocative; I held my breath at times to be silent.  Light, ethereal, ghostly yet oh, so dark and menacing. Beautiful yet violent. Calm yet seething.  Ms Mackintosh’s writing will hold you spellbound and leave you bereft, hopeful, defeated…just as the sisters felt. She is a skilled wordsmith indeed.

A small aside…after reading the book and then re-reading the publisher’s blurb I wondered if they had read the same book!

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

Don’t You Cry

dyc

TITLE: DON’T YOU CRY

AUTHOR:  CASS GREEN

PUBLISHER: HARPER COLLINS

ISBN: 978-0-00-828721-4

NO SPOILERS

 

This book is not one I would usually choose to read, not being my preferred genre and the cover not appealing to me. However, I often want something quick, entertaining and not too taxing…a beach or plane book, the thread of which will not be lost when I summon the poolside waiter or flight attendant! Don’t You Cry by Cass Green certainly fits the bill and I did enjoy it.

The action begins early and the pace never slows. The Who, What and Why questions are there from the start and little by little the answers and back stories of Angel and Lucas are revealed.

Cass Green is no literary wordsmith, there are no passages to savour, no beautifully crafted phrases but the simply told plot moves at a good pace with plenty, and I mean PLENTY, of twists which kept me reading.

It is written in the present tense which I find always increases suspense and heightens emotions. Each very short chapter is written from a single point of view; I like this, especially as the main character Nina’s chapters are written in the first person. Strangely though, the break between chapters felt very much like breaks for advertisements on television…perhaps this has been written with that in mind or perhaps as an audio book?

Talking of television, something which annoyed me was that every character referred to it as “telly”. It’s a minor irritation, I know, but it seems wrong, as if it had been missed by the editor. Surely some of us use the full word or say TV? Likewise the sudden shifting of location in one scene.  In some parts the book reads like a not quite final draft.

All that said, I read this book in a day, not because I could not put it down, but because it is easy to read and yes, I did want to know the outcome.

If crime/thriller is your genre, then Don’t You Cry will give you a very good, no frills, fast moving tale but may not satisfy your literary cravings.

 

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.