Saturday, 29 May 2010

Cecilia Ahern: Thanks for the Memories

How can you know someone you've never met? Joyce Conway remembers things she shouldn't. She knows about tiny cobbled streets in Paris, which she has never visited. And every night she dreams about an unknown girl with blonde hair. Justin Hitchcock is divorced, lonely and restless. He arrives in Dublin to give a lecture on art and meets an attractive doctor, who persuades him to donate blood. It's the first thing to come straight from his heart in a long time. When Joyce leaves hospital after a terrible accident, with her life and her marriage in pieces, she moves back in with her elderly father. All the while, a strong sense of déjà vu is overwhelming her and she can't figure out why...

This was a rather strange story with a bizarre storyline, but very entertaining. Although I found the main theme a bit far-fetched, it was funny to follow Joyce's and Justin's efforts to meet up and get to know each other. My favourite character, however, was Joyce's dad, whose fascination with the Antiques Roadshow leads to some surreal and comic situations in London.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Elizabeth Edmondson: The villa in Italy

Four strangers are summoned to the Villa Dante, a grand but neglected villa on the Italian coast. Each of them has been named in a will of Beatrice Malaspina; but not one of them knows who she is. Delia, an opera singer robbed of her voice by illness; George, an idealistic scientist who cannot face what his skills have created; Marjorie, desperately poor and unable to dislodge her writer's block; and Lucius, ostensibly in control but whose personal life is in chaos. While they wait to find out more, the villa begins to work its seductive magic. With its faded frescoes, overgrown garden and magnificent mediaeval tower, it is unlike anywhere they have been before. Slowly, four characters who have gone to great lengths to hide their troubles find that change -- and even hope -- is possible after all.

This book was an Amazon recommendation to follow up "The island". The mystery around Beatrice Malaspina and the variety of characters were fascinating and kept me wanting to read the story as quickly as possible. Although the story unfolds slowly, there was not a moment's of boredom and even though towards the end the denouement was becoming more predictable and clichéd, this was a great read. The book covers different walks of life and deals with the aftermaths of the Second World War, but this is in such an inobtrusive way that reading this book has been a great pleasure.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Sophie King: The school run

A week in the lives of seven people - all on the same route to school: Harriet is waiting for her husband to tell her if their marriage is on – or off. Pippa is about to receive some potentially devastating hospital results. Evie has one week to save her career – and find her missing husband. Nick’s wife died two years ago, leaving him with a troublesome teenage daughter. Martine, a French au pair, is about to run off with a married man. Kitty, a school teacher, accepts a bet to find a man in a week. And Betty watches by the roadside, looking for the driver who killed her son. Little do any of them know that by the end of the week the school run will have become a collision course, connecting their lives in more ways than one.

The storyline sounded interesting and so I picked up this book. However, although the characters are refreshingly truthful and although identifying with different characters comes naturally, the style of writing was quite confusing at times. Of course, it helped to see each scene from one character's perspective, yet, sometimes I found it difficult to remember who was who. Also, the climax of the storyline is somewhat surreal, which I thought didn't match the rest of the book. Entertaining, but not a great read...

Friday, 14 May 2010

Victoria Hislop: The island

On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. But when Alexis decides to visit Crete, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.
Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fortini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip..

This is an incredibly powerful story about never-ending and enduring love, about passion and beliefs. Although I found the beginning of the book too clichéd, the story soon unfolded to be gripping and reading about the leper colony and Sofia's family turned out to be an emotional roller-coster.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Liz Smith: Our Betty

Liz Smith, once called the nation's favourite fictional grandmother, is a familiar face to all TV and cinema viewers. She is most often recognised for her role of Nana in The Royle Family. OUR BETTY is Liz's life story - from her cosseted yet lonely childhood with her beloved grandparents, through the war with the WRENS, marriage and children, divorce and poverty, long years working in dead-end jobs, until her heavenly escape of evening acting classes provided the chance for a career. OUR BETTY is, like its author, original, amusing and fascinating on the struggles, hopes and successes endemic of a life in front of the camera.

The subtitle "Scenes from my life" clearly describes the nature of the book. It's more a collection of brief episodes than the narrative of Liz Smith's life. In places, I found it hard to relate to the story, as Liz Smith describes life in the UK before, during and shortly after the war, times, where people didn't have phones or TVs. However, I liked the fact that Smith doesn't describe her past all-colourful and glorious. Times were hard then and times are hard now, only different....

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Ake Edwardson: Zimmer Nr. 10

Die Frau im Zimmer Nr. 10 des abgetakelten Hotels zwinkert noch mit ihrem rechten Auge. Aber das hat einzig und allein mit den beiden Elektroden zu tun, die die Ärztin angelegt hat, um über die Muskelreaktionen den Todeszeitpunkt besser bestimmen zu können. Denn die junge Frau, Paula Ney mit Namen, wurde erhängt aufgefunden, mit einem offenbar erzwungenen Abschiedsbrief und einer blendend weiß gestrichenen Hand, die vielleicht der Mörder bepinselt hat. Kriminalkommissar Erik Winter aus Göteborg steht vor dem vielleicht rätselhaftesten Fall seiner Karriere. Doch damit nicht genug: Das Zimmer Nr. 10 kommt Winter überaus bekannt vor. Er erkennt, dass eben dieser Raum der Schauplatz seines ersten Kriminalfalls war. Der Kommissar holt auch diesen alten, niemals aufgeklärten Fall aus dem Archiv -- und stößt auf Bezüge, die nicht zuletzt sein eigenes Leben bedrohen. Denn er hat es mit einem Psychopathen zu tun, dem alles egal zu sein scheint ....

Die Geschichte war fesselnd und der Polizist Erik Winter und die anderen Mitarbeiter der Fahndungsabteilung waren auch sehr interessant. Allerdings empfand ich den Erzählstil des Autors zeitweise als zu langwierig, was die an sich spannende Handlung stark verlangsamte. Dagegen war die Begegnung Winters mit dem Psychopathen zu kurz und grob.