Challenges

All posts in the Challenges category

The Book Addiction Tag

Published May 26, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everything and welcome to something a bit different today here on bibliobeth. One of my bookish goals/resolutions was to do something different at least once every month, for example a tag, so a big thank you to the lovely Stuart at Always Trust In Books for tagging me and I’m looking forward to confessing all my bookish secrets! Please go follow Stuart if you don’t already. He is an awesome reviewer, a great buddy reader and writes such intelligent and thoughtful reviews that I always enjoy reading them.

Here we go!

What is the longest amount of time you can comfortably go without picking up a book?

I think the longest time I’ve ever gone without reading is two days. At the time, I was reading a book that was only “okay,” and it put me into a bit of a slump where I didn’t look forward to picking it up again. For future reference Beth – just DNF! Ideally, I love to read every day but I do get a bit twitchy if I go for longer than a day without losing myself in a book.

How many books do you carry on your person (or kindle) at any one time?

Uh-oh. Now I’m in trouble. If I’m reading a “real” book I just carry one at a time unless I’m quite near the end of the book and then I take two. I get incredibly nervous if I finish a book in a day and don’t have anything else to read on my commute home. The idea of not reading on the train (unless I’m not feeling well) is horrifying!

I’ve just checked Amazon for the total amount of books I have on my Kindle and it’s er….quite a lot. Okay, okay, it’s 1856. Shocking, I know. And I don’t think that counts the Netgalley ones which is about 40. Oh and I had a big clear out and deleted about 100 not long ago so it was worse!

Do you keep every book you buy/receive or are you happy to pass them on to make space for more?

I used to keep every single book, I just love seeing them there all stacked up (rather haphazardly) in my bookshelves. Then I tried moving house with all of them and realised how ridiculous I was being. I heard about something recently that if you want to do a book cull you should look at your books, be honest with yourself and only keep books that bring you joy. Just before we moved away from London, I did exactly that and got rid of about 150 books! I mean, if you’re not going to read them or re-read them what’s the point?

How long would you spend in a bookshop on a standard visit?

If they didn’t have to close and I didn’t have to do life stuff or eat/drink/work I could happily spend days in a bookshop. It also depends who I’m with as well. If I’m with my boyfriend, he gets bored quite quickly and leaves the bookshop to wait for me outside. Even though he tells me to take my time, I still feel a bit guilty and spend maybe fifteen to twenty minutes. If I’m with my sister or another book lover, easily an hour or longer.

How much time per day do you actually spend reading?

I read on my commute to and from work so that would be about an hour and a half. Then on my lunch break for about half an hour whilst the other half hour is spent reading other bloggers posts, re-tweeting them and replying to comments. Then finally, before bed for up to an hour. So… about three hours I think?

Where does the task ‘picking up a book’ appear on your daily to-do list?

Quite high. If I didn’t have to work it would probably be my only priority haha. My last thought before I leave the house in the morning is: “Is my book in my bag?!”

How many books do you reckon you own in total (including e-books)?

Oh dear. This is where I hang my head a little bit for my obvious lack of control. So, 1,896 on Kindle, including Netgalley review copies and then real books – at a conservative estimate it’s probably 900 or a little bit more. That makes 2,796. I have a problem, right?

Approximately how often do you bring up books in conversation?

Depends on who I’m talking to I guess. If it’s my sister, it’s usually the first thing we talk about after we’ve said “Hi” of course! With my boyfriend it’s maybe once a day, usually encouraging him to read more!

What is the biggest book (page count) you have finished reading?

Just had a look at Goodreads and it was back in 2011 where I re-read The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien which weighs in at 1,216 pages.

Is there a book you had to get your hands on against all odds i.e searching bookshops, online digging etc?

I don’t think so. I normally manage to get hold of books that I really, really want quite easily. I am quite precious about my Penguin clothbound classics which have all been bought for me as gifts but again, they’re relatively easy to find I think!

A book you struggled to finish but refused to DNF?

Current read – Blood And Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. I’m deliberately not DNF’ing it because it’s part of my Banned Books series with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. I’m very much looking forward to sharing my thoughts on that one though, it would DEFINITELY be DNF’d if it wasn’t for our series. More on that on Monday!

What are 3 of your main book goals for 2018?

Put less pressure on myself to blog every day – I struggle with a chronic illness and work full-time so am often in a lot of pain and don’t feel like blogging. I’m apt to beat myself up if I don’t have a post going out every day but I need to stop doing that!

Gradually reduce back list by continuing to do mini pin-it reviews – I’m getting on really well with this goal, I’ve done 20 of these so far which is equivalent to 80 books (4 in each review) and I should hopefully be on top of it by the end of this year or early next year at the latest.

Be better about commenting on other bloggers reviews – I’m also doing well with this. I love getting comments myself and am really enjoying the interaction with other bloggers. It’s a wonderful community and I feel I’m making some real blogger besties which is lovely.

Have you ever had the privilege of converting someone into a reader (maybe via inspiration or incessant nagging)?

Yes! My boyfriend, for sure. He never used to be a big reader and he always says that I have converted him into someone who looks forward to reading now which warms the cockles of my heart. He has lost his way a little bit recently but I’m hoping to bring him back to the fold soon. I think he’s getting a bit fed up with my voice whining at him: “Why don’t you READ?!” whenever he goes to bed!!

Describe what books mean to you in five words.

Happiness

Home

Passion

Obsession

Life

 

So that’s it! Hope you’ve enjoyed my answers to this book tag. I’d like to tag any blogger that wants to do this and hasn’t done it already. I always feel like I know someone a lot better with tags like this, I hope you feel you know me a little bit better and I’d love to get to know you too.

Lots Of Biblio-Love

BETH

xxx

 

 

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Published May 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

What did I think?:

If you haven’t read this book yet and have been umming and aahing about picking it up, please finish your current read and read it next! I put off reading this book for the longest time, even after it won the Costa Award for Best Debut Novel and even still when it was long-listed for The Women’s Prize For Fiction this year. I have heard so many rave reviews and sometimes all the hype can make me steer clear of a book rather than gravitating towards it. After all, what if it isn’t as good as everyone says? What if I’m the lone wolf in a sea of popular opinion? I’m delighted to tell you, I’m most definitely a sheep. I ADORE THIS BOOK. Janel from Keeper Of Pages (please follow her, she’s one of my blogger bezzies and a wonderful reviewer!) finally convinced me to pick this novel up in our second buddy read this month and like The Fireman last month, we both can’t speak highly enough of it. Please check out her awesome review HERE. This novel has the strange accolade of being heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time. It made me laugh, it brought me close to tears and finally, now I see what all the fuss is about.

Gail Honeyman, author of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

So, is Eleanor Oliphant Completely Fine? Well, no she’s not. You know that very British thing that most of us do when we’re feeling rubbish and yet someone asks us how we are and we say: “Fine, thank you,” when we’re clearly not?! This is poor Eleanor. Her life consists of working nine to five, five days a week in an accounting firm in Glasgow. She barely interacts with anybody except to do her job and her social awkwardness and blunt way of speaking does not endear her to her co-workers. In fact, she becomes quite the figure of fun. As soon as Friday hits, Eleanor grabs a couple of bottles of her favourite vodka, shuts herself up in her house and doesn’t speak to another living soul until Monday morning when the whole cycle starts again. This is until she meets Raymond who works in IT at her company and they both help a stranger when he falls ill in public. From here on, Eleanor’s life changes dramatically and will never be the same again. She begins to realise she is not in the slightest “fine,” and never wishes to be so miserable or lonely again.

Glasgow, Scotland where our story is set.

I can’t even deal with how many emotions this book evoked from me. I felt an instant connection when I realised it was set in Scotland, as my veins do run blue with Scottish blood but besides the setting, this is such a stunning piece of debut fiction that it took my breath away. Beginning in quite a melancholy way, where we see the loneliness and hopelessness of our female lead’s life was gut-wrenching to say the least. However, then it changes and the story is so very uplifting that it made me cheer silently multiple times as I got to know Eleanor, broke my heart for her, rooted for her and at the end, felt real and definite hope for her future. Eleanor is a complex character that really gets under your skin. Because of her past, she is not aware of the intricate niceties of interacting with other people and can come across rude, abrupt and brutally honest.

I couldn’t believe some of the things that she came out with sometimes, there were plenty of laughs but I remember at the same time shaking my head in disbelief and sadness at her naivety when facing the modern world. Things like smartphones, going to gigs and getting her nails done are big deals for Eleanor and as she continued to force herself into new, sometimes scary situations, I couldn’t help but smile at the endearing nature of it all. You don’t find out what has happened in Eleanor’s past until quite late on in the novel and although Janel and I desperately wanted to know what had gone on with her, I completely believe this was the perfect way to structure the book. You fall in love with Eleanor first as a character and it only makes it more heart-breaking when the trauma of her past is finally revealed in full, horrific detail.

Please do me a favour and read this book if you haven’t already. Eleanor is such a special character and both her and her story will play on my mind for a long while to come.

Thank you once again to Janel for an amazing buddy reading experience!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Sealwoman’s Gift – Sally Magnusson

Published May 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives sold into slavery in Algiers were the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards. It was a time when women everywhere were largely silent.

In this brilliant reimagining, Sally Magnusson gives a voice to Ásta, the pastor’s wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Ásta meets the loss of both her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home: the stories in her head. Steeped in the sagas and folk tales of her northern homeland, she finds herself experiencing not just the separations and agonies of captivity, but the reassessments that come in any age when intelligent eyes are opened to other lives, other cultures and other kinds of loving.

The Sealwoman’s Gift is about the eternal power of storytelling to help us survive. The novel is full of stories – Icelandic ones told to fend off a slave-owner’s advances, Arabian ones to help an old man die. And there are others, too: the stories we tell ourselves to protect our minds from what cannot otherwise be borne, the stories we need to make us happy.

What did I think?:

The Sealwoman’s Gift had been on my radar for a little while after I saw it being advertised as a highly anticipated read for this year from some of my favourite book-tubers. I mean, that gorgeous cover is enough to draw you in and make you want to read it, right? Then when I found out that it was a re-imagining of an actual historical event that happened in Iceland in the 17th century which tore apart countless families, I knew it was something I had to get my hands on. I am trying to be good at the moment with a book-buying ban and a determination not to buy hardbacks on the cards, so I was delighted when Two Roads Publishers via Book Bridgr sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It came at a time when I really needed cheering up so a huge thank you to them. Generally, I found this novel to be a solid, beautifully written story that at points, was comparable to being told an old folk-tale. Of course, the fact that this event actually occurred makes this tale all the more intriguing and I thoroughly enjoyed Sally Magnusson’s fictional version of it that was quite obviously extensively researched.

Sally Magnusson, author of The Sealwoman’s Gift.

The event I’m referring to is one many people may not be overly familiar with. It happened in 1627 and involved a host of pirates who attacked the coast of Iceland, removing many men, women and children from the nearest towns, sailing them back to Algiers and selling them all into slavery. We follow one woman in particular, Ásta, who is pregnant at the time of the raid and is captured along with her husband, Ólafur and most of her children. Ásta ends up being separated from her husband and this is the story of how she copes in the house she is sold into, her relationship with her children and her absent husband and especially, how she changes as a person when she is wrenched away from a much simpler life and everything she has ever known.

The beautiful Westman Islands, mentioned by Ásta in the novel.

I always worry when I fall in love with a book’s cover that the inside won’t match the outside, so as to speak. Luckily, I had no worries on this account with The Sealwoman’s Gift. I was absolutely captivated by Ásta’s tale and the people that she met along the way, particularly in Algiers where the course of her life changes forever. I have to admit to being slightly nervous when I saw the cast of characters in the front of the novel, especially the Icelandic names which I’m not too familiar with. However, there was no need to panic, the book is written in such a way that you can easily get your head round who is who in a very short amount of time. I also loved the inclusion and translation of some common Icelandic words which just added to the other-wordly, beautifully alien and very unique feel of this story.

This isn’t just a narrative that re-hashes a moment in history, this is also a story about the relationships between families and between husband and wife and how they are altered when one or both of the parties goes through a life changing event, experiencing new things outside their humdrum, ordinary existence and developing into a different person as a result. The author uses one character in the novel to bring a folk/fairy-tale element to the proceedings when Ásta is warned about her future by one of the more superstitious islanders. I loved how this was incorporated into the tale and it gave the reader something to look back on and analyse when our female lead’s life takes a more dramatic turn.

This is a debut novel that drops you right into Iceland’s past authentically and evocatively and having been to Iceland myself, I could picture everything in full, glorious detail. I’ll certainly be watching out for what Sally Magnusson does next, her writing is too gorgeous to miss out on.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – The Coincidence Of The Arts by Martin Amis from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Published May 19, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s The Coincidence Of The Arts all about?:

An English Baronet becomes entangled with an American chess hustler and aspiring novelist and has an unexpected affair with a silent Afro-Caribbean woman.

What did I think?:

Coincidence Of The Arts is the first story in this collection in the section entitled “Stories To Intrigue And Excite.” With a heading like this, I must say I WAS quite excited to finally read some Martin Amis but at the same time, approached it with slight trepidation as I’ve read a few less than complimentary things about the author as a person and understand he has a bit of a reputation. I decided to talk to a friend about the author as to what his writing was really like as I knew my source had read a couple of his books and that he would give me an honest opinion that I knew I could trust. Unfortunately, although my friend told me the author could definitely write, he was less than pleased with HOW Martin Amis chooses to write his characters. In particular, he mentioned how black, working class and female characters are written in an extremely stereotypical and perhaps, not a very favourable way.

The British author of The Coincidence Of The Arts, Martin Amis.

Hearing all this, I tried to go into this short story with an open mind. I really do like to make up my own mind about things like this but to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes. The person who voiced his opinion on the author is incredibly honourable, has high morals, believes in equality for everyone and is very scathing of anyone who has obvious prejudices. In other words, he must have had a solid reason and hard evidence to have such a strong opinion. Was he right? I’m afraid so.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about this narrative, the synopsis sums it up pretty perfectly but it’s basically the story of a white English man, Rodney Peel living in New York and working as an artist, painting portraits of rich wives for their husbands. He has two main relationships in this story, one with aspiring black novelist Pharsin Courier and the other with a black woman who he desperately wants to paint but eventually ends up sleeping with on a regular basis. Not much really happens in the story of note to be fair, we mainly get Pharsin and Rodney running into each other and Rodney making excuses for not having read Pharsin’s novel yet. Then we get portions of text where Rodney is going out with a friend and telling him about his relationship with the mysterious woman. Things do connect up slightly at the end but the bare bones of this story make it a tale about art, literature and race.

The setting for our story, beautiful New York where the author, Martin Amis also now lives.

Okay, so where on earth do I start? This is such a strange little story that at times, I found myself wondering what the point of it was. Is Martin Amis trying to be too clever? Did I miss the point of the story entirely? Both these things are possible but in the end, I’m afraid this story just wasn’t for me. I’m slightly confused at it being placed in the “Stories To Intrigue And Excite,” section of this collection. Granted, I was somewhat intrigued by Rodney’s relationship with a woman who remains silent during their encounters but sadly, there was no point of this tale that excited me. In fact, some parts of it made me half laugh/half scrunch my nose up in disgust and others left me feeling distinctly uncomfortable. I’ll elaborate. There’s a point very early on in the story before Rodney and his lady friend have “done the deed,” and he’s talking to his friend about how fascinating he finds her. His friend very bluntly asks: “Have you two actually slimed?”

I couldn’t help thinking of this little guy….anyone remember Slimer from Ghostbusters?!

I mean, ewwwwww. I found it hilarious and utterly disgusting in equal measure. Aside from this awful little sentence my main problem with this story was the way people of colour were talked about both by Rodney and his hideous little friend. It was blatant racism of the worst possible kind and definitely does not sit well with me. I’m not sure if they were necessarily stereotypes but Rodney and friend talk about this woman that he is seeing in such archaic and ignorant terms, I literally squirmed whilst reading it.

I would like to try and end this review on a positive, I do always like to try and find something nice to say when writing a more critical review and in this case, I’d like to say that it is obvious the author can definitely write. I may not approve of the way he writes and talks about his characters but there is no denying he has a talent for spinning a yarn. It’s just a shame that from what I’ve heard from others and now, what I’ve read for myself, I will unfortunately not be treating myself to any Martin Amis in the future. If you can rest easy with these kinds of things in literary fiction, I’m sure you will enjoy his work – I however, cannot.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Beachworld by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Talking About The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans with Chrissi Reads

Published May 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans is the spellbinding new novel from the Top 5 Sunday Times bestselling author of A Place for Usand The Butterfly Summer. Fans of Kate Morton’s The Lake House or Santa Montefiore will delight in this book. 

Harriet Evans is ‘perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Maeve Binchy’ Best

Tony and Althea Wilde. Glamorous, argumentative … adulterous to the core.

They were my parents, actors known by everyone. They gave our lives love and colour in a house by the sea – the house that sheltered my orphaned father when he was a boy.

But the summer Mads arrived changed everything. She too had been abandoned and my father understood why. We Wildflowers took her in.

My father was my hero, he gave us a golden childhood, but the past was always going to catch up with him … it comes for us all, sooner or later.

This is my story. I am Cordelia Wilde. A singer without a voice. A daughter without a father. Let me take you inside.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your initial impressions when you looked at the cover of this book?

BETH: I thought it was pretty, I liked the night sky and the hint of wild flowers (which are mentioned quite a lot in the novel as well as being the surname of the family). However, I don’t think it gave you much idea of what the story within contained. Sometimes this can be a good thing and you are pleasantly surprised by what you find but generally speaking, I like my covers to have a tiny hint of connection with the narrative.

BETH: This novel is told from multiple perspectives. How did you find this worked for the story?

CHRISSI: I have to admit that I often struggle with multiple perspectives. It can be really hard for a writer to engage every reader with every perspective. I did find it hard to enjoy one particular perspective. I do think this somewhat hampered my enjoyment of the book, because I found myself skimming the parts of the perspective that I didn’t enjoy that much. That’s not a reflection on the author’s writing, it’s just that one perspective didn’t work for me… tricky! However, I do think it worked to have multiple perspectives for this story to really delve into the plot.

BETH: What did you make of Madeline’s relationship with the Wilde children, Ben and Cordelia?

CHRISSI: Ooh, I thought Madeline’s relationship with them was fascinating. Madeline made such an impact in their lives right from the get go. I thought her relationship was particularly obsessive, bordering on stalker-like. It was interesting to read her diary entries to see just how much she picked up on about Ben and Cordelia. It did leave me feeling a little uneasy though. I feel like we really got to know who Madeline really was through her diary entries.

CHRISSI: To be born with exceptional talent can be a blessing and a curse. How are the characters in The Wildflowers affected and afflicted by theirs?

BETH: Good question. The Wildes are an infamous family in the small town on the Dorset coast where they have a country home. Both Tony and Althea, the mother and father in the equation are both actors. Tony, at first is the most popular and incredibly sought after for work in London but Althea comes into her own during the story. The daughter, Cordelia is at times, transfixed by her parents success and in the end, she becomes a famous singer and the brother, Ben a respected director. For all parties concerned, their fame and fortune has a detrimental effect on family life, their health, their relationships with each other and with people outside the family circle and leads to multiple secrets and betrayals.

BETH: There are unlikeable characters in this novel. How did you enjoy reading about them?

CHRISSI: Some unlikeable characters are awesome to read about. I love it when I hate an unlikeable character. It means the author has really got under my skin and I think that’s quite a talent. I wasn’t a fan of Ben and Cordelia’s parents. I thought they were incredibly self-obsessed. This is one of those stories though, that as it progresses, you begin to somewhat understand why the characters have behaved in the way that they did. Madeline, however obsessed she was, fascinated me!

CHRISSI: If Aunt Dinah’s letter had been found when it was written, how would it have impacted Tony’s life? Which events might have played out differently? And why?

BETH: It would have completely turned Tony’s life upside down – in a good way. Unfortunately it is not found until a long time later when Tony is unable to do anything about what Aunt Dinah says in the letter. By then, he has made countless mistakes, wrecked his close relationships which has led to certain members of the family becoming estranged. He would have been comforted by what he found in the letter I think and his whole life, including his relationship with his wife would have been very, very different.

CHRISSI: Did this book surprise you in any way?

BETH:  A little bit, yes. I anticipated some big twists and turns and there were certainly plenty of those. Unfortunately, I did have a little inkling of what was to come so I wasn’t completely surprised with one of the big reveals. My biggest surprise was probably an incident with Tony as a young man and his Aunt Dinah’s friend Daphne. I couldn’t quite work out why this event was in the novel and I wondered if it was entirely necessary?

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I have read a few books by Harriet Evans before and I would do again in the future. I used to be quite the fan but my reading tastes have changed over time. It was nice to go back to her writing after quite a break from it!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH:  Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

 

The Midnight Line (Jack Reacher #22) – Lee Child

Published May 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Reacher takes a stroll through a small Wisconsin town and sees a class ring in a pawn shop window: West Point 2005. A tough year to graduate: Iraq, then Afghanistan. The ring is tiny, for a woman, and it has her initials engraved on the inside. Reacher wonders what unlucky circumstance made her give up something she earned over four hard years. He decides to find out. And find the woman. And return her ring. Why not?

So begins a harrowing journey that takes Reacher through the upper Midwest, from a lowlife bar on the sad side of small town to a dirt-blown crossroads in the middle of nowhere, encountering bikers, cops, crooks, muscle, and a missing persons PI who wears a suit and a tie in the Wyoming wilderness.

The deeper Reacher digs, and the more he learns, the more dangerous the terrain becomes. Turns out the ring was just a small link in a far darker chain. Powerful forces are guarding a vast criminal enterprise. Some lines should never be crossed. But then, neither should Reacher.

What did I think?:

Oh dear, here we go. Unpopular opinion time. Before I get into it though, I have a little story about my experience with Lee Child and the Jack Reacher series. In that I have no experience at all! I actually had the first seven Jack Reacher books on my shelves to read before my boyfriend and I moved from London and to make moving a little easier, I had a giant cull of my books. I had the above mentioned Lee Child’s for years, languishing at the back of my bookshelves and just never getting round to them. Then I had to be brutal with myself. I have a huge amount of books as some of you might know and I had to be real – firstly, was I excited about these books? Secondly, when was I ever going to read them? So I decided I obviously wasn’t excited if they had been on my shelves that long and I probably wasn’t going to read them anytime in the next decade so off to the charity shop they went.

Any Lee Child’s here? Probably.

Now, you might know that I follow the Richard and Judy book club here in the UK quite religiously with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. Any books that we do read on each seasonal list, we usually discuss in a “Talking About” feature and if she doesn’t fancy reading any of them, I will read and review them on my own. I was kind of surprised to be honest when I saw the latest Jack Reacher novel on the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club list. I don’t think any of the author’s books have been featured before and it was interesting that they chose the twenty-second book in the series as one of their “must reads.” Initially, I was quite pleased to see it there. Finally, I could read a Lee Child book and see what all the fuss was about! It didn’t matter that it was quite far on in the series, I was pretty sure each novel could be read as a stand-alone and on finishing it, I can confirm this is the case.

Lee Child, author of the popular Jack Reacher series.

I read The Midnight Line on a trip home to see my parents and sister and I’m so sorry to admit that I was bitterly disappointed. I quite literally had to force myself to pick it up and read it and am kind of kicking myself that I just didn’t give it up when I realised I wasn’t enjoying it. No, no I MADE myself continue, even though I was barely concentrating on the story anymore, there were entire passages that I confess to skim reading, just to get to the end a bit sooner. Sadly, as my sister can probably confirm, I was finding other distractions, like looking at social media on my phone or checking train times (when I already knew the train times) just to avoid picking up the book again.

I won’t talk too much about what the book is about as the synopsis does that pretty well. In a nutshell, it’s about Jack Reacher, former military officer, freakishly tall and incredibly badass with morals and a heart of gold. He finds a small ring in a pawn shop one day that foxes him as he recognises the brand from a school he used to be part of. He starts to worry what has happened to the woman who once earned this ring as it’s something he doesn’t believe anyone would give up lightly. Therefore, he vows to find out the story behind the ring’s owner and try to help wherever he can.

So yes I was quite intrigued by this synopsis initially, especially as to what exactly had happened to the woman who owned the ring. Unfortunately, the story that unfolded wasn’t half as interesting as I had anticipated. I won’t give anything away for anybody who hasn’t read it but perhaps my main problem with the plot (and occasionally the male lead) was that I just found it somewhat unbelievable. If you’re a Jack Reacher fan, you might know that he gets compared to Bigfoot and The Hulk, something I struggle to comprehend with Tom Cruise being cast in the role but that’s besides the point. In one particular scene in the book, he faces off with a number of big biker men surrounding him (I think there are five, but I can’t quite remember). Now, I understand that Jack is a huge ape of a man and has had military training which obviously makes him quite handy in a fight but he manages to kick these guys asses by himself with barely a scratch on him at the end. Sorry, just don’t believe that would happen!

Theatrical release poster for the Jack Reacher film starring Tom Cruise. Image from: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37219725

There’s also various scenes involving drugs, the possession and use of drugs and Jack threatening and even following through with his threats to the “baddies,” in the narrative. Some of these things are carried out either right in front of law enforcement individuals or with their knowledge and nothing ever happens/or is said to Jack about his part in breaking the law. He just seems to get away with everything. Again….don’t believe it! I do understand that sometimes you have to suspend your disbelief in a novel and personally, I’m fine with that in magical realism or fantasy. If it’s a thriller/crime/mystery novel, I like to have an element of authenticity and if this goes beyond the realms of what I particularly believe in, I apologise but you’ve lost me as a reader.

I do want to end with positives as I really don’t want this review to be one long rant. If I’m writing a more critical review, I really like to say nice things too, there’s no sense in being rude. Lee Child has written a very popular series which is famous world-wide and obviously, a lot of readers are invested in it and thoroughly enjoy Reacher’s adventures. Perhaps the problem with this novel for me was that it was the twenty-second book in the series. Therefore, I haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know Jack Reacher from the beginning. I’m being quite judgemental about his character but maybe if I HAD read the series from the start, I would have connected a lot more with both his background, personality and his way of going about things. I just want to assure Lee Child fans that this is just my personal opinion, it may have not been the best book to start the series with and I’d love to hear from you about the books you’ve read and why you enjoy them. Are all the books in the series similar? Should I give Jack Reacher another shot?

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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Short Stories Challenge 2018 – 20th Century Ghost by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

Published May 13, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s 20th Century Ghost all about?:

Imogene is young, beautiful, kisses like a movie star, and know everything about every film ever made. She’s also dead, the legendary ghost of the Rosebud Theatre.

What did I think?:

I confess to finding myself a bit under-whelmed by Joe Hill’s first story in this collection, Best New Horror which was good, don’t get me wrong, but having rated the author’s debut novel, Heart-Shaped Box and his second, Horns five stars when I read them recently, I guess my expectations were stupidly high. Luckily, I got on much better with the title story of this collection, 20th Century Ghost and although it might not have reached the dizzying heights of five star-ness (is that EVEN a phrase?!), it restored my faith in Hill as a short story writer.

The author of 20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill. There were many images I could have chosen but I was strangely drawn to this one with the tree! 😛

So, this story as you may have already guessed from the synopsis is about a ghost called Imogene Gilchrist who appears to a very select number of theatre frequenters, desperate to talk to them about the movie she is viewing. The tale focuses on Alec Sheldon, who now owns the Rosebud Theatre but when he was a younger man, visited there with his brother, Ray on a regular basis. Ray has sadly been killed in the war and Alec is still struggling with his loss but one day, visits the theatre on his own where he has the frightening experience of meeting Imogene and talking to her for himself. Back in the present day, Alec has become quite obsessed with Imogene and the sad story  behind her death, which happened as she was actually watching a film, The Wizard Of Oz. He keeps notes of all his customers who have also seen Imogene who feel compelled to talk to him about the experience. Meanwhile, the theatre is losing money and all the customers who have seen the ghost have had the same strange dream, of boarded windows and a woman crying. Alec must call on all his resources to try and save the Rosebud, talk to Imogene again and make peace with his own tragic past.

This image represents how I imagined the Rosebud Theatre to look.

20th Century Ghost had just enough intrigue, creepiness and indeed, heart-break to keep me turning the pages and I adored the bitter-sweet, horribly sad ending. Imogene was a wonderful character as a ghost and the manner of her death was so sad that it just made me more curious about what her back-story was. Unfortunately, we don’t really find out a great deal but in compensation, we get the fantastic Alec, who got my emotions rocking and reeling due to the loss of his brother. Having not had any previous experience with Joe Hill’s short stories before this collection, I did wonder if he was only going to be good at epic novels but I’m delighted to say that he can write a short, snappy, engrossing tale with the best of them and I’m confident that I’m going to enjoy the rest of this collection.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Coincidence Of The Arts by Martin Amis from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.