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Tatiana de Rosnay, Mhairi McFarlane, Emma Healey| Reading Roundup

The Other Story - Looking At You - Elizabeth MissingThe Other Story by Tatiana de Rosnay: I’ve been trying to read a novel by de Rosnay since the success of Sarah’s Key (I still haven’t read it). The premise of this novel appealed to me more than the execution, and I think that’s mostly a result of the jacket copy promising “a journey to uncover the truth that took him from the Basque coast to St. Petersburg”. They get to that journey, but not very quickly. The novel begins in the aftermath of Nick’s success as a writer, as he is struggling to begin the process of writing his second novel. Nick, in the aftermath of his fame and fortune, exhibits a complete lack of charm or appreciation for life that makes him  insufferable. I’m usually okay with characters I don’t like, but even Rosnay’s beautiful writing couldn’t make Nick more palatable or interesting.

Here’s Looking at You by Mhairi McFarland: Loosely based on Pride and Prejudice, this novel was funny and engaging at times but stylistically was not my cup of tea. There was a lot of dialogue in this book–pages and pages of it. I don’t love that, but I did enjoy the interactions between the main characters. I suspect I would have liked this a lot more had it been shorter.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey: I didn’t expect to love this as much as I did. However,  I was completely absorbed in Maude’s struggles with her deteriorating mental state, her race against time and her own memory to solve  the disappearance of her friend Elizabeth, and another mysterious disappearance from her past. Healey’s skillful depiction of elderly Maude’s limitations and confused musings set a deliberately slow and thorough pace for the reader. While some may find it frustrating to be lost in the myopia of Maude’s mind, I reveled in the depth of perspective Healey provides a character with Alzheimer’s. I loved the atmosphere of the novel and its engaging depiction of present and World War II Britain.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

Literary Movie News: Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper in the Movie Adaptation of Ron Rash’s Serena

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are reuniting to star in Ron Rash’s Serena, and the only thing I am worried about is that I haven’t read the book yet. The trailer makes it look all kinds of angsty and dramatic, it’s also period piece to boost, ya’ll. The goal will be to read it before I see the movie, and my motivation to do this is doubled by the fact that I’ve read some of  Nothing Gold Can StayRash’s powerful and moving collection of short stories.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

Out of Twenty: Denise Mina, Author of Red Road, Answers Seven Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing  author and they choose their own Denise Minainterview by handpicked which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Denise Mina is the author of  Red Road, the fourth book in her Scottish detective series featuring Alex Morrow.  Here is what Denise had to say about reading, writing, and taking the reader into a different world.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started as narrator, and what kind of books you like to work on?

 I’m a Scottish woman who lucked out! I started as an incompetent legal academic, doing a PhD in The Ascription of Mental Illness to Female Offenders. I realised that I’d probably spend the rest of my life trying to get people to listen to the things I’d discovered and I’m not that pushy. To be an academic you have to really sell yourself and I’m not the best at that.  So, I started writing a crime novel with all of the ideas in it, thinking that people would read for the mystery but come across all of the ideas in there. That book was Garnethill.

The books I like to work on have pace and take the reader into a different world that they having imagined before. I like heroes and heroines that are unexpected: psychiatric patients, rude women, the fat girl in the office.

I am often struck by the different ways books can be interpreted by who read and how they read it. Can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you get into character, and prepare to read narrate a book?

Honestly, I’ve got kids, a lot of elderly relatives and a man who couldn’t find his arse with both hands so I don’t have time for routines or rituals. I just look at the calendar, weep softly and get on with it. Panic is a good motivator. Working in the morning is good too: there’s a period of about two hours just after I’ve woken up when I don’t have a head full of other things, so I often get up a couple of hours before everyone else and work then.

 Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.

Does being lauded as a writer make you feel like a bit of a phoney?

All the time. I see other writers talk about their work with total certainty and confidence. Maybe they don’t feel that way but I can’t even put it on. I always think of Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes. Larkin was constitutionally questioning  and Hughes was certain. I feel like Larkin. I wake up a little bit embarrassed.  I used to be embarrassed about feeling embarrassed but now I think of it as the ability to have two feelings at the same time. It’s my super power.

Red RoadWhat was the most interesting thing that you’ve found out while preparing to read a book that you’re working on?

Reading a lot of the research on women who marry men in prison or on death row for Deception. The dynamic in those relationships mirrors that between fan and pop stars: you can be completely over the top because you’ll never meet really, it’s the distance that causes the erotic tension. There’s a great book about Australian women who married men in prison and followed them after they got out. Terrifying! One guy took all of his wife’s teeth out to punish her.

In the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people.  What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule?

I get up before the kids and write for one or two hours before they get up. Then an hour and half of nagging, feeding, shouting, walking and get everyone to school. Then back to the desk, re read what I’ve done, decide what I’m going to do today. Batter into it. By about 11 am my concentration is fading and I spend about an hour and a half refusing to admit it has. I check my email, facebook, twitter. I empty the dishwasher. I sweep the hall.

Then I give up and have lunch early. Then I come back, work for a bit more, set out the work for the session and get on with interviews, admin, phone calls etc. The kids get out of school at three o’clock so I usually think of something great at 2:30, just as I have to set off. Jot it down, go get the kids. Get everyone back home, feed, nag, homework, nag. If I have child care which is about two afternoons a week I sit down and work until 5.

How jaw dropping dull is all of that? Read more

All Day And A Night by Alafair Burke

All Day and a Night by Alafair Burke

Generally speaking, character likability isn’t all that  high on my list of priorities in enjoying, or even choosing a book to read. Numerous factors are considered ahead of that (setting, tone, atmosphere, subject matter, whether I think it’ll be a compelling read). However, there are some natural exceptions to those rules—romance for one. Have you ever read a romance novel where you didn’t like either of the lead characters? Doesn’t happen very often.

I would also hazard a guess that murder mysteries, detective stories and suspense novels, where the tensions and stakes are high, are another place where it doesn’t hurt to have a character with whom you are comfortable, understand, and can root for. Ellie Burke is one such character, and with her, readers can comfortably navigate the world of violence and criminality.

In All Day and A Night  (a.k.a. prison slang for life without parole) Ellie Hatcher and her partner JJ Rogan are tapped to head  up a “fresh look” team on a serial murder case which was believed to have been solved years ago. The duo isn’t happy about the assignment which is one that is usually reviled within department because investigating officers are principally tasked with questioning the police work of their colleagues. It’s one step away from participating in an internal affairs investigation. It’s not by accident that Ellie and her partner have been assigned this task; it comes at the  request of Ellie’s now live in boyfriend, Max Donovan, who is an ambitious lawyer working for an even more ambitious DA in an election year. The heat is on, and though  no one wants to question the former police work, it’s clear that some things were missed.

Burke writes intriguing mysteries and this one is no exception. I had my ideas about how it would all end but I wasn’t sure, and that is saying quite a bit in her favor. The character interactions and back-stories, strong female roles and complex mystery made for a clever and engaging read. I’ve read one of Burke’s stand-alones, but this was my first novel featuring Ellie Hatcher and I would love to catch up with the other four novels in the series. Barring that, I’ll definitely be picking up and following where the next Hatcher mystery leads.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

Weekend Reading: Michel Laub, Bich Nguyen, & Elizabeth Cooke – July 18, 2014

Current Reads

I have plans with a friend this evening and an afternoon seminar set for tomorrow, but I am also planning on some quality time with my books. I’ve got three going at the moment.

Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub – This is I picked up from Other Press at BEA. Set in Brazil, it so far tells the story of  a young Jewish man who is examining his identity as a Jew in the aftermath of cruel bullying and serious injury of one of his non-Jewish classmates (which he participates in). His decisions and their eventual friendship are predicated on the examination of the lives of his father and grandfather and how both men deal with their own Jewish faith and identity.

The Wild Dark Flowers by Elizabeth Cooke – I had no idea that this was a sequel when I first started reading, but so far it has in no way affected my enjoyment of the story about the changes occurring on an English estate in the midst of the war. Sound familiar?

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen – I’m listening to this on audio and it’s a little slow going for some reason. Still, the story of a young woman of Vietnamese descent discovering her own story in the midst of exploring Rose Wilder Lane’s, is appealing and full of interesting history.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review