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The Idiot (Everyman's Library, #254)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear
The Velvet Hours
Alyson Richman
Behind Her Eyes: A Novel
Sarah Pinborough

First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill

First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill  - Sonia Purnell Review to follow.

Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea

Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea - Elizabeth Chandler, Robert Chandler, Надежда Тэффи, Anne Marie Jackson, Irina Steinberg Note to self for 2017....... you don't have to finish a book that you are not connecting with. You have purchased it, you have tried it, you don't have to finish it.

Occasionally I struggle though books I am not enjoying in the hope that it will turn around and this happens to be one of those that I should have left aside after 100 pages as I just wasn't enjoying the read.

Memories from Moscow to the black Sea is an account of the author Teffi's journey from Moscow to Ukraine 1918, in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Teffi (1872 -1952) wrote poems plays and stories and was renowned in Russia for her wit and powers of observation in her writings. Her real name was Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya, and like many Russian intellectuals was initially in favour of social change. She was a very popular writer in Russia, and was a favourite of both tsar Nikolai II and Lenin. She supported the 1905 Revolution and she wrote for various Bolshevik newspapers, sometime later Teffi became a critic of the Bolshevik party.

I purchased a hardback copy of this book on a recent shopping trip and was so disappointed that I didn't connect with the author's account of her escape from Russia as the Bolsheviks were taking over that country. The account is told with humor which apparently is consistent with her works but for me I found it forced here and the book became tedious. The account contained little factual content and I am aware that this was on propose but I found connect the reader to the time and place. I felt the humor just didn't seem to fit with the panic and brutality of the time. The story didn't come across with any emotion for me and I struggled through to the end but could have left this one to one side after 100 pages.
However other readers may enjoy the sense of humor in this book and while it's an easy read I am afraid this was just an ok book for me.


Commonwealth - Ann Patchett The saying "Gin makes you sin" sure plays a role in Ann Patchett's latest novel Commonwealth.
A novel about Family dynamics after marriages end and new relationships form and the fallout that folks have to deal with.

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited but with a large bottle of Gin. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

An interesting novel in places with well formed likable and dislikable characters. The writing is good but there were many highs and lows for me in the novel.

I enjoyed the the beginning of the novel as the situations and characters were interesting. Half ways through I got confused and struggled with the story and characters, but the novel picked up again towards the end. I think there were too many main characters to keep track of and I found the storyline confusing at a certain point. However the book does comes together at the end and while I liked it and it was a quick read, its not going to be a memorable one for me.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini Book club Read.

Miss Jane

Miss Jane - Brad Watson Beautifully written - a story that is quietly intriguing and inspiring. This is a novel where the characters will take hold of you and you will have great difficulty letting go of them by the end of the story.

Miss Jane is a story of a child born with an inoperable condition in rural Mississippi in 1915.

An amazing sense of time and place with wonderful characters. The story is based loosely on the life of the authors great aunt Jane who was born with a rare congenital deformity.
We are introduced to rural life in Mississippi and we grow up with Jane as she learns to cope with life and the difficulties that come with living with her condition. A heartwarming story and yet is is not a sad book. Its a story of hope and courage and living life with dignity. Watson prose is charming and compelling and he writes a sensitive portrayal of a woman adapting to her condition in a time where there is limited medical information and care.

I listened to this one on audio and the narrator was excellent.(still cant help wishing I owned a hard copy) This would make a great book club read as the it is character driven, well written and unique.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - H.T. Willetts, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Review to follow.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.E. Vance 2.5 Stars ** It was an OK read but wasn't what I expected .

I wonder who chose the title on this Memoir, was it the Author or the Publisher ?

I have dithered and doddered over this book's rating for several days as I felt my low rating was out of sync with other readers but I just didn't seem to connect with this one and while I stuck with it I didn't really find it as engrossing as other readers. I picked this book for its title [book:Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis|27161156] and felt I was going to get a rare glance into Hillbilly Culture which I knew absolutely nothing about but came away from this book feeling slightly disappointed as upon reading numerous reviews I feel I didn't get as much from this book as other readers.

I fully appreciate the marvellous achievements that the author has accomplished to date and how he avoided the many pit falls of being brought up in a family where life is anything but normal and the chance of bettering yourself is difficult through no fault of your own but I felt there was something lacking in the story and I while it was an interesting read I came away from the book without gaining any real insight into "a culture in crisis" I did wonder how his family felt about his writing this memoir as I seem to remember reading in the book where his Memaw liked to keep family business private and he certainly has no issue airing the family's dirty laundry.

I wasn't brought up with a silver spoon in my mouth and all my siblings worked their butts off to achieve their successes but while poor we did have wonderful supportive parents who did everything to ensure we got the best eductaction possible and the older I get the more thankful I have become for their selflessness and forward thinking and after reading a book like this you realise how difficult some have it and how trapped they are in their environments.

There were of course several parts of the story that shocked me and I now believe that guns are as normal in that part of America as umbrellas are in Ireland. It was interesting reading about the college process in America but I was amazed at the cost of a college education and how young people are lumbered with huge loans on leaving college and start out their working life with that burden. While college eduction is considered expensive in Ireland it is nowhere near the figures quoted in this book.

Anyhow while I enjoyed the read its not a book I will be passing on and yet I think there is much for discussion here and would probably make an excellent book club read for some book clubs.

Good Me, Bad Me

Good Me, Bad Me - Ali Land A Gripping psychological thriller, dark, shocking but utterly compelling.

New Name. New Family. Shiny New Me

Annie's mother is a Serial Killer, The only way Annie can make it strop is to hand her into the police.But out of sight is not out of mind. The secrets of her past wont let her sleep even with a new family and a new Name Milly

I was a little nervous starting this one as I was afraid that the author would be too graphic about the murders and I really didn't want to go down that road but thankfully the reader is spared any gruesome details and the book is an extremely clever and well written Psychological thriller. This is a genre I had basically given up on in 2016 and delighted to say this is the second really well thought out thriller that I have read this year.

I devoured this one and think I read it in two days as it was so compelling and I loved the psychological aspect of this novel. Great characters, dark and disturbing plot with great twists and turns to keep the reader interested.

I listened to this one on audio and also had a hard copy of it which I had forgotten that I ordered, the audio was excellent and works really well for this book in ways I can't explain without giving away important elements of the story.

I recommend this one for lovers of dark and twisted Psychological thrillers.

Number the Stars

Number the Stars - Lois Lowry I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully written Historical Fiction story which I believe was written for children and yet adults may well find it such a worthwhile and enjoyable read as well

The evacuation of Jews from Nazi-held Denmark is one of the great untold stories of World War II. On September 29, 1943, word got out in Denmark that Jews were to be detained and then sent to the death camps. Within hours the Danish resistance, population and police arranged a small flotilla to herd 7,000 Jews to Sweden. Lois Lowry fictionalizes a true-story account to bring this courageous tale to life. She brings the experience to life through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie Johannesen, whose family harbors her best friend, Ellen Rosen, on the eve of the round-up and helps smuggles Ellen's family out of the country.

A short book will just enough historical detail to educate a young (and not so young reader) and interesting and likeable characters, I loved the bravery and courage of Danish people and how they looked out for their neighbours.
Its a beautiful story full of hope and suspense and I certainly enjoyed every moment. I look forward to reading some Non Fiction books about this time in Denmark's history.

I listened to this on audible and at under 3 hours its such a great book to escape with back to a different time.

The Unseeing

The Unseeing - Anna Mazzola A gripping Murder Mystery wonderfully vivid, dark and disturbing and based on true events.
This is one of those novels that had me reading way past my bed time and sneaking off for a half hour read when I should have been doing other things but I just couldn't put this stunning debut novel down as it is extremely well written and relates a wonderful sense of time and place.

Based on actual events in 1837 Sarah Gale a Seamstress has been sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. Much of the Novel is set in Newgate which was was one of the most notorious prisons in England and the author really convinces the reader of the hell the prisoners endured during their time there. The murder of Hannah Brown caused a sensation at the time and Anna Mazzola creates a wonderful and convincing historical fiction story around the events of the time. Great characters and plot make this such a compelling read and I she had me captivated with her wonderful storytelling.

The author includes an Histroical Note at the end of her novel where she explains that The Unseeing is a work of fiction, based on fact. All of the newspaper extracts used in the Unseeing are real, as are many of the details of the crime itself and the subsequent investigation and trial. She also explained that she has twisted the truth in order to make a better story and this worked extremely well in the story.

I was amazed to learn that this was Mazzola debut novel and look forward to further books by this author. A gripping murder story that many readers of historical fiction will really enjoy.


Corrag - Susan  Fletcher There is a stillness and beauty to Susan Fletcher's writing that will enchant the reader and take your breath away with beautiful vivid descriptions of the Scottish Highlands and a tale that will transport you to another time and place. Prepare to be bewitched

Corrag is the story of a young woman who has witnessed the horrific massacare of Glencoe on a winters dawn in 1692, where William IIIs redcoats brutally slaughtered 32 of the McDonald's Men Women and Children Clan. The reason for the massacre was their loyalty to the exiled Catholic James II, however sadly for the McDonalds a signed oath of their allegiance to William the III has been signed six days too late and the punishment is devastating.

The story is passionately and beautifully told by Corrag (who has been branded a witch and imprissioned ) to the visiting Irish Political Activist Charles Leslie who is secretely gathering evidence against King William of Orange.
The novel is full of lyrical and poetic prose and the descriptions of Scottish Highlands will have you think you are right there among the mountains and glens and smelling the heather and herbs.
Corrag herself is a wonderful free spirited character who dwells in her world without Kings and religion to answer to and she lives her life doing good and carrying on the traditions of her mother and those that have gone before her.

I listened to this Book on audio and the narration was very good and very easy to follow.
A great read for anyone who enjoys novels set in Scotland or readers who enjoy historical fiction where a story is created around an epic event.

Days Without End

Days Without End - Sebastian Barry 3.5 stars
2016 Costa Book of the Year winner
     Barry's prose as always is beautiful and vivid and he captures the most fateful years in America's past.
Days Without End is a coming of age story about friendship, survival love and the tragedies of war.

This is my fifth novel by Sebastian Barry and Days Without End has a connection with other novels by this author and the McNulty Family, this time we are introduced to Thomas an ancestor who is orphaned during the Irish Famine and at the age of 17 makes his ways to North America where he signs up for the US Army in the 1850s and befriends John Cole and they go on to fight in the Indian Wars and Ultimately the Civil War. While there is a small connection with other novels which feature the McNulty family this a very much stand alone novel as there is very little reference to Thomas McNulty's Irish past.

I always enjoy Barry's prose and stories as he manages to convey a wonderful sense of time and place in all of his novels. The massacres of the Indian nations I found difficult reading and so horrific but very realistic and well written. I wasn't so convinced by other elements of the story and found quite a lot of it improbable situations occurred in the plot.
I would have loved to have read this a as a book club read as it is a short novel and would make a great discussion book.

I enjoyed the book but [bookcover:A Long Long Way|780932] and [bookcover:The Secret Scripture|3419808] will stil remain my favorites by this author.

Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival

Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival - Peter Stark A story of Wealth, Ambition and Survival and a true adventure tale of the 1810 Astor Expedition to forge an American empire on the Pacific Coast.

I have an interest in this time in American history and in the men who forged their names in history as the men who built America and John Jacob Astor is without doubt one of the most interesting men of this time.

The book Astoria is an unfolding adventure over the course of three years, from 1810 to 1813, a tale of the harrowing times in American history and shows the incredible hardship in the wilderness and at sea that these men (and women) endured in their quest to discover and establish empires. Over one hundred and forty members of the two advance parties that reached the West Coast, one crossing the Rockies the other rounding Cape Horn, nearly half died by violence and many lost their Sanity, The expedition successfully established Fort Astoria, a trading post on the Columbia River. Though the colony would be short-lived, it did however set the footprint for what would become know as the Oregan Trail.

I listened to this one on audio and while the narrator was good I did feel I missed out on reading a hard copy of the book as to follow the route of the expedition I had to google maps which I believer are included with the hard copy and are really needed in order to follow and understand the book. The Hardcopy also has a list of characters and I felt this was also important as there quite a few people to keep track of.
Having said that the book is an amazing and an interesting adventure story with unforgettable characters and a wonderful sense of time and place in the vast unexplored wilderness. I was totally horrified by the hardship the expedition endured to the clashes with the Indians.

The book is very well written and while it may not be everyone's cup of tea I recommend it to those who enjoy adventure stories and for those who like reading about American history, I would however recommend purchasing a hard copy of this as opposed to audio version to get the full experience.


Dear Mr. M: A Novel

Dear Mr. M: A Novel - Herman Koch A slow moving and complex tale that takes patience and time to unravel

Having loved the [b:The Dinner|15797938|The Dinner|Herman Koch|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1355949630s/15797938.jpg|6463092] I was really looking forward to[b:Dear Mr. M|28186095|Dear Mr. M|Herman Koch|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1472552544s/28186095.jpg|41364302] by Herman Koch.

The premise for the novel drew me in and Herman Korch's cast of dislikeable characters never fail to deliver. However I did find for the most part this story tedious and dull and while the first few chapters had me intrigued I did however find myself losing interest as the story is quite complex and difficult to follow and the end result was far from satisfying.

I have no doubt that Herman Koch is a clever and talented writer and his complex novels are certainly unique and creepy but while I loved the Dinner I am afraid I struggled to with Dear Mr M. right to the end.

The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien The things they carried by Tim O Brien is a collection of twenty-two stories chronicling the author's recollections of his time as a soldier in the Vietnam War. About one third ways through the book I realised that this account was not entirely based on fact and that some of the stories were fiction and I did initially think that this was going to affect my ability to understand and gel with the characters and stories but I think the book was so well written that for me it seemed as if I was seeing the war through O'Brien's eyes and this overcame my need to know exactly what was fact and what was fiction.
I found this in my audio library and to be honest I did very little research on what exactly the book entailed because the narrator's voice was so amazing that I just got stuck in and what I great book I stumbled upon.

A few of the stories shocked and saddened me and one in particular will stay with me for a long time(On the Rainy River). I found the story (The Dentist) funny and was glad there was a little humour in there among all the sadness.

I am really glad I read this book and I hope to purchase a copy for my bookshelf, I can absolutely recommend the audio version of this one as the narrator was excellent.


Bastard Out of Carolina

Bastard Out of Carolina - Dorothy Allison 2.5 Stars

Bastard out of Carolina is a tough and harrowing read. Written by Dororthy Allison and set in Allison's home town of Greenville, South Carolina in the 1950s. The story centres around "Bone" Boatwright a girl born fatherless to 15 years old Anney Boatwright and sexually and physically abused by her step-father Glen but part of a large extended family who know poverty and life is as hard as it gets a life where family matters but drinking and fighting is part of their existence.

I personally found this a long drawn out harrowing story of abuse and relentless violence and while the story needed to be told I found the telling was just way too drawn out and repetitive. There was so many pointless sections in the Novel that I found myself zoning out on a couple of occasions. While the story is important and a shocking and excellent insight into a child's life of abuse I couldn't find the emotion within the story and although I was shocked and I just didn't connect with this book like many readers have done and for me this could have been an excellent short story but just didn't make fulfill me as a novel and this might have been the fact that the book is quite graphic and a lots of detail. I also found the relentless cast of characters quite frustrating.

I know that is a book loved by many but just and ok read for me. I listened to this one on Audible and the narration was was adequate but I think I may have got more out of reading a hard copy of this book.

Perhaps readers who liked [b:The Glass Castle|7445|The Glass Castle|Jeannette Walls|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1400930557s/7445.jpg|2944133] or [b:Angela's Ashes|252577|Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt, #1)|Frank McCourt|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1348317139s/252577.jpg|2883783] might be interested in this novel.