Talking About A Dictionary Of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton with Chrissi Reads

Published August 25, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In the tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha and The Piano Teacher, a heart-wrenching debut novel of family, forgiveness, and the exquisite pain of love
 
When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Amaterasu spends most of the novel feeling that she is to blame for things that have happened. How has this affected her life and does the novel provide a resolution?

BETH: Poor Amaterasu! I found her such a fascinating character and alternated between feeling really cross with her and then really sorry for her after her actions lead to her living such a sad, lonely life when her husband dies. Her potential grandson turns up on her doorstep one day after he had been searching for her for quite a while and you begin to see the start of a relationship between the two as Amaterasu thinks back to the events that caused her to lose her daughter and believe her grandson was dead. She escapes to America with her husband as she doesn’t feel that she can stay in Nagasaki because of all the bad memories associated with it. Even though she promises her husband on his death bed that she will try and integrate herself with the community, she becomes a virtual recluse, even developing a bit of an alcohol problem and it is only with the appearance of a man that claims to be a grandson that she can put old ghosts to rest.

BETH: Could you understand why Amaterasu made the decisions she did?

CHRISSI: Somewhat, I don’t want to spoil the reading experience for others! Amaterasu has to look back at her life and begin to come to terms with what happened in the time period before, during and after the bombing. It takes Amaterasu some courage to look back at her past and look for forgiveness for her actions so she can live the rest of her life in peace. It is a particularly painful look back for Amaterasu as she feels pain and immense guilt after her actions.

CHRISSI: What did you feel that you learnt about Japanese culture and the differences between East and West?

BETH: I felt I learned so much! This book is really special for the little paragraphs above each chapter that describe a Japanese word or phrase and what it means for the Japanese people. Even though the author is British, the novel is inspired by her years living in Nagasaki in the 90’s and it’s obvious she’s done her research and really integrated herself into the Japanese mindset. The East and West cultures can be quite different but it’s always fascinating to learn about a different culture and way of life.

BETH: Did your opinion of Sato change at any point in this novel and why?

CHRISSI: Not really. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t like Sato as a character at all. I get the feeling that I was supposed to find some sympathy for him, but I just found him infuriating. I guess he did try and find redemption within his letters and his adopting an orphan, but for me, my opinion didn’t change. I didn’t find him likeable at all.

CHRISSI: You love Japanese fiction.  Did this book live up to your expectations?

BETH: I certainly do and it certainly did. It reminded me of Memoirs Of A Geisha and was beautifully written with a fascinating plot and intriguing characters, especially our main character Amaterasu. I also felt like I learned a lot about the horrors of the Nagasaki bombing and the effect it had on so many people’s lives and it’s encouraged me to read a bit more into it.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I think it would depend on what the subject matter was. I do think the writer has a beautiful writing style, but I wouldn’t race to read another.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!
CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’S star rating (out of 5):

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The Love Song Of Miss Queenie Hennessy (Harold Fry #2) – Rachel Joyce

Published August 21, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

From the author of the 2 million+ copy, worldwide bestseller,The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, an exquisite, funny and heartrending parallel story.

When Queenie Hennessy discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, and all she has to do is wait, she is shocked. Her note had explained she was dying. How can she wait?

A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; only this time she must tell Harold everything. In confessing to secrets she has hidden for twenty years, she will find atonement for the past. As the volunteer points out, ‘Even though you’ve done your travelling, you’re starting a new journey too.’

Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was the beginning.

Told in simple, emotionally-honest prose, with a mischievous bite, this is a novel about the journey we all must take to learn who we are; it is about loving and letting go. And most of all it is about finding joy in unexpected places and at times we least expect.

What did I think?:

Rachel Joyce’s debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry makes its way onto my favourite books of all-time list so it was simply a no-brainer that I was going to read this one, a companion novel to the Harold Fry story, when it came out. The Love Song Of Queenie Hennessy can be read as a stand alone, but to be honest, I think its best if you read Harold Fry first, to get a real flavour of the characters and understand why Harold decides to walk all those miles to visit Queenie in the hospice when he receives her letter that tells him she is dying.

From the very beginning of Harold Fry, I started to fall in love with the character of Queenie and was ecstatic beyond words when I heard that she was going to get her very own voice and we would hear her side of the story. When Queenie hears what Harold is doing, she is both shocked and very excited but feels there are some things that Harold needs to know, things that she has been keeping hidden all these years and a tragedy that she feels responsible for. The kindly nuns suggest that Queenie writes Harold another letter to explain all of this as due to the cancer, Queenie can sadly no longer talk so Queenie does just that.

One letter turns into a epic mountain of a task, with the nuns having to tape the pen to Queenie’s hand so she can carry on writing near the end – she is determined to finish and adamant that she will stay alive until he arrives. Through Queenie’s words we learn about her early life, when she was a young woman and first met Harold, her trials and tribulations through her life, especially with Harold’s son, David, and her beloved sea garden that she constructs and people come from miles around to see.  Not only do we learn more about the sweetness that is Queenie with her unrequited love and admiration for Harold but a whole host of whimsical characters in the hospice like Pearly King and the fiesty, foul-mouthed (but ever so loveable) Finty who also find their own determination to live to see Harold Fry arrive.

This novel ticked all the right boxes for me in terms of an amazing plot and stupendous characterisation, which I already knew about from Harold Fry but it was lovely to hear the secrets and drama behind Queenie’s life. Oh my gosh, the sadness though….I remember wanting to cry at the end of Harold Fry but at the end of Queenie Hennessy, Rachel Joyce actually succeeded in making me a sobbing mess – in a good way of course! The prose again was flawless and truly beautiful and the moments of humour combined with the tragedy of it all floored me on many occasions. One of my friends on GoodReads has suggested that there could be a third book, told from the perspective of Harold’s wife, Maureen and I have to admit, I’d love her to give it a shot. Please Rachel Joyce, please?!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Mini Pin-It Reviews #1 – Four Author Requests

Published August 20, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Hello everyone and welcome to a new feature on my blog! Due to problems with a chronic illness (which I hope to explain to you in a personal post soon) I am hugely behind with my reviews.. yes I actually have a backlog of just over a YEAR in reviews and, I have to be honest, it’s been stressing me out with the thought of never being able to catch up. Then my lovely sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads, who does something similar on her blog, gave me the fantastic idea of doing short and snappy reviews on a post-it. I just want to stress that it doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the book – it’s just a good way for me for getting something out there a bit quicker for all the wonderful authors that send me books to review and for books I’ve had from NetGalley and Book Bridgr that, although read, are just languishing on the review pile!

For this first post, I’ve chosen four books that I’ve been sent directly from authors (or their publisher) that I’ll still be giving a star rating/recommendation to at the end. Hope you enjoy!

1.) Getting Rooted In New Zealand by Jamie Baywood

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What’s it all about?:

Craving change and lacking logic, at 26, Jamie, a cute and quirky Californian, impulsively moves to New Zealand to avoid dating after reading that the country’s population has 100,000 fewer men. In her journal, she captures a hysterically honest look at herself, her past and her new wonderfully weird world filled with curious characters and slapstick situations in unbelievably bizarre jobs. It takes a zany jaunt to the end of the Earth and a serendipitous meeting with a fellow traveler before Jamie learns what it really means to get rooted.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) Off Key by Mark Robertson

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What’s it all about?:

Charlotte has supported Kyle’s precarious musical career for three years. Now it’s her turn. When Kyle doesn’t want to play the breadwinner, she looks to a future on the other side of the Atlantic. Saxophonist Kyle has no money, no career and has now lost the love of his live. Can an autistic twelve-year-old boy and an alcoholic ‘has been’ be his salvation?

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

3.) Piano From A 4th Storey Window – Jenny Morton Potts

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What’s it all about?:

Lawrence Fyre and Marin Strang aren’t like other people.

He is the eccentric owner of failing Sargasso Books in the Brighton Lanes. She is an ex-Jehovah’s Witness and isolated Spanish teacher. If they live together in his illegal, beautiful, rope laddered lock-up, can their love overcome their losses?

Original, sexy, very funny and deeply moving. An author in complete control of a number of unforgettable characters and emotional highs and lows, Jenny Morton Potts leaves the reader breathless, and wanting more.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) The Death Of Danny Daggers – Haydn Wilks

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What’s it all about?:

Cardiff. The last few days of summer.
Danny Daggers is about to die. He just doesn’t realise it yet.
A Leeds University student with a very popular YouTube channel, Danny Daggers is taking his alcohol-downing stunts on tour.
He’s about to find out that not everyone’s a fan.

Ji Eun is a Korean student doing work experience at the South Wales Post.
Rory Gallagher is the alcoholic veteran journo who’s mentoring her.
Carnage in Cardiff might be just what they need to begin and revive their respective careers.

Tom and Joseph work at one of Cardiff’s many call centres.
Tom is fed up of working boring jobs and living for the weekend.
Joseph is just happy to have a job.

Then there’s the Amstell brothers.
Simon’s just escaped from prison. And he happens to be the father of Joseph’s girlfriend’s son.
And his brothers happen to be psychopaths.

These stories collide and intersect over a frantic few days of heavy drinking, drugs and ultraviolence, set against a backdrop of dystopian modern Britain.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP SOON ON MY PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Book Bridgr Reviews.

 

Short Stories Challenge – Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Published August 18, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Space all about?:

Space is told from the perspective of a widower who is not only struggling with his own grief but trying to deal with his son’s grief also.

What did I think?:

Well, this story was quite a welcome surprise after the horrors of the previous story in this collection – The Jesus Stories which I gave I believe, my lowest rating ever. Shocking! Space was a really sad little tale that left me feeling quite choked up and a little despondent, told from a male character’s point of view as he comes to terms with losing his wife. He narrates the story as if he is talking to his wife, Della, which you get the feeling he does quite a lot and gets some comfort from.

The couple have a son, Eric, of indeterminate age (but old enough to have stubble, as the author tells us) and this is where our narrator is struggling the most. Ever since the funeral, he hasn’t been able to communicate with Eric about his mother in the way he would like and often ends up angering him instead. It is not until one night, when they have a power cut and there is nothing left to do but talk, that father and son have an initially wary heart-to-heart that leads to tenuous bridges beginning to be built. Eric confides in his father that he likes to watch television as a bit of a distraction from what he is feeling inside and that it takes very little effort, whilst his father confides in him some things about his mother that he had previously not known.

Kevin Brockmeier’s beautiful way with prose sets an evocative scene of a house without electricity, where the two inhabitants are forced together to share their feelings and become closer as a result. It was painfully sad to read and quite heart-breaking at points, especially when our narrator becomes desperately worried that he will eventually forget things about his wife as time goes on. It’s definitely a return to form after the disaster that I found The Jesus Stories and I’m now eager to read the next story in the collection.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

 

 

Author Interview – Carolyn Waugh on her debut novella The Oasis Of Time

Published August 16, 2016 by bibliobeth

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AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY – CAROLYN WAUGH

Carolyn has worked in a laboratory for almost forty years now but in her spare time for pleasure and to de-stress she likes to read (a lot!), mostly fantasy and romance novels. Then a few years ago she started to jot down some notes which then turned into stories. Friends were interested and wanted to read them and when they had, they told her she should try and get them published. Carolyn tried a few publishers and unfortunately was rejected so gave up for a couple of years when she tried again and was accepted by an American publisher. She hopes that people who read the story enjoy it as much as she enjoyed writing it.

Click on the book to get to the link to Good Reads!

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For my review of The Oasis Of Time, please click the link HERE.

INTERVIEW WITH CAROLYN WAUGH

I’d like to welcome Carolyn to bibliobeth today and thank her very much for her time in giving this interview.

1.) Have you always been a big reader and what’s the earliest memory you have regarding something to do with reading?

Yes, I’ve always been a large reader, usually reading up to five books a week! My earliest memory is my mother teaching me how to read, I must have been about four years old so I could read before I went to school which I found very useful.

2.) What was your favourite book to read as a child or teenager?

Fiction mainly, because it was something I found you didn’t have to concentrate too hard on but I do like Alistair MacLean as well and people like that – anything with a bit of murder and intrigue in!

3.) If you had to live on a desert island for six months what three books would you take with you?

Does a series of books count as one?! (bibliobeth: Yes, I think it could!) Okay, I would take the Harry Potter series, probably the series I’m reading at the moment by Sherrilyn Kenyon which is a group of books of all different types (I’m reading Dark Bites at the moment) so you don’t get bogged down into one type of book and lastly, War And Peace – I can be quite eclectic in my tastes!

4.) The Oasis Of Time is your first published novella with Amazon. Have you any plans to write a full novel or do you prefer to write short stories/novellas?

I like writing short stories but I would like to try, maybe in the future, my hand at a novel but I would like to see how the short stories take on first and see if they can sell. I know I’ve given them to several friends and they seem to enjoy reading them which is good. The problem is trying to get them published as it seems to cost so much unless you’re a published/known author as people aren’t willing to take that risk on you.

5.) Jay and Lilly don’t have the easiest start to their relationship for one reason or another, do you think they change as people through what they both experience?

I think they do because they don’t have certain emotions until they both meet. This brings out both the best and the worst in them and also brings something entirely new to the relationship, something different.

6.) I love the magical quality present in The Oasis Of Time. Is magic a big part of your work?

I think everyone needs a little bit of magic or paranormal to get them out of this world at the moment because there is such death and destruction, everyone needs a bit of light-heartedness and fantasy to take them away and take their mind off it a bit.

7.) Is there a happy ending for Jay and Lilly and might we see them again in a future story?

There is a happy ending and you never know, you might do! I might get the idea of bringing them back for a “part two.”

8.) Are you working on anything at the moment and can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes I am and it’s a ghost story…. you’ll have to read it when it’s finished!

 

 

Once again, a HUGE thank you to Carolyn Waugh for giving up her time to do this interview and for her wonderful answers to my probing questions! The Oasis of Time was published in e-book format on March 10th 2015 by M-Y Books Ltd and is available to buy now.

The Oasis Of Time – Carolyn Waugh

Published August 15, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Jay was a prince and he had the dark hair and dark smouldering looks of a sheikh of the desert. He was like the princes that you read about in the female romance novels that have a picture on the cover.
His personal assistant Lilly,would be first one in to work as always, she was there when he came in and invariably there when he left always just finishing up for the night. She intrigued him in the physical sense, he sometimes dreamed of her in his bed, making love to her. Her mouth was a wonder to behold and sometimes in their meetings if he was not careful he would lose track of their conversation.
Lilly on and off when working for him had saved his butt so to speak quite a few times. Lilly had been working for him for a while now and she loved every day.
Hiding the truth about her past and from where she came from and of what she could do, was getting harder and harder as she feared that she was falling in love with him and that was something she must not do. Ever. She must never do that as her genie status would vanish and she would become human.

(synopsis from Amazon)

What did I think?:

Full disclosure here – I am not usually a fan of so-called “romantic” fiction or erotica (although I do love a bit of fantasy) but Carolyn is a good friend of mine and absolutely loves to write so when she heard I was a blogger she asked if I would read her novella, The Oasis Of Time and let her know what I think. First of all, it’s clear Carolyn has an amazing imagination and reading fantasy/romance/paranormal fiction on a regular basis has given her an excellent background to writing a story of her own.

Our male lead is Jay, a strapping young man who happens to be a prince no less, who works very hard in his business managed by himself and his father the King but has been trying to hide his developing feelings for his assistant, Lilly, unsure if she reciprocates his feelings and afraid of losing her if she doesn’t. Luckily, Lilly does feel the same way but that’s not the real issue standing in their way. The thing is, Lilly knows the family much better than Jay can understand or appreciate as she is a genie who has been assisting the family for many years after she was captured close to the oasis where she lived.

The major reason why Lilly will try to stop herself falling in love with Jay is that if she enters into a relationship with her, her magical powers and status as a genie will vanish and she will become human forever. The future for Jay and Lilly is very unsure and potentially life-changing for both of them – will it work out for them in the end? Also, will Jay ever be able to accept the special properties behind the woman he loves?

One of my favourite things about this novella was the magical qualities in the story itself. I loved Lilly and Jay as characters and the fact that Lilly was a genie just brought an extra something to the narrative as a whole. I completely bought into their relationship and enjoyed reading about their struggles as they both wonder if they can be together as a couple. I’m hoping there will be many more stories to come from Carolyn Waugh as she has a clear passion for what she does and as I mentioned earlier, a huge imagination to back it up. Hopefully, some fantastic editor will see the potential in her work and snap her up, bringing her work to a wider population.

Carolyn’s first published novella is available to buy on Amazon for the bargain prize of 99 pence and 99 cents in America:

Amazon UK Link

Amazon US Link

Come back tomorrow when I’ll be interviewing Carolyn Waugh here on my blog!

Would I recommend it?:

For fans of the genre – yes!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Short Stories Challenge – Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Published August 14, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Elephants In Captivity (Part One) all about?:

The penultimate story in this collection is told from the point of view of an elephant who is looking back on her life before she was captured and forced to join a circus.

What did I think?:

There is so much more to this story than what I’ve written in the synopsis which doesn’t do the complexity or the originality of this narrative justice at all. However, I’m going to attempt to explain a bit more about it in a coherent way but apologies in advance if it all just sounds a bit rambling. The most important thing about Elephants in Captivity is not the text itself but the footnotes which play a huge role in telling the story and unearth many unexpected surprises. The narrator of the footnotes suggests to the reader that it is best to read the entire story through once whilst ignoring the footnotes then return and read the story a second time, giving yourself plenty of times to incorporate what is written within the footnotes.

I did just as the author suggested and after I finished the story the first time round, I have to admit to feeling a bit confused. When I first began, I thought it was brilliant – I’m a big animal lover and I loved the author’s previous story in this collection told from the point of view of a tiger, The Infamous Bengal Ming so a story told by an elephant called Shanti seemed right up my street. By the end however, I wasn’t so sure…it seemed a bit too abrupt and that there seemed to be an awful lot of things that hadn’t been said that should have been. Enter the footnotes! On the second reading, everything began to slot into place and I was left filled with admiration for a very clever and different way of telling a story.

I don’t really want to go into what the footnotes contain too much as I fear it would spoil the story but let me just say – you need those footnotes! The narrator puts some crucial information into these “little” notes (I say “little” but believe me, the length of some of these notes could make a short story in themselves!). I loved the parts that he set up almost like dialogue from a play that explored the relationships between certain members of the herd in a much deeper (and darker) way than we get from just hearing Shanti’s point of view in the original text. Then there were the tidbits of information about his own life and how it related to the elephants that were very darkly humorous, at times shocking but impossible to put down. I’ll say one thing and then leave it there – penis like an elephant trunk?!

This was a story that proved what an undeniable talent and huge imagination Rajesh Parameswaran has as a storyteller and although Elephant In Captivity frustrated me initially, reading it through with the footnotes as additional pieces of information really gave the story something special and has firmly cemented it in my mind as one of my favourites from this collection as a whole.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

 

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