Thursday, August 28, 2014

Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson

Notes from a Small Island is Bill Bryson's account of travelling around the UK for a couple of months in the early 1990's, just before he returned to live in the US after living in the UK for 20 years. He wanted to recall all those things that had made the country special to him during that time and to take stock of the public and private faces of the people who lived there.

Beginning with a retrospective look at Bryson's first trip to the UK, 20 years earlier, his recollection of arriving in Dover offers such an interesting perspective of a time and a place which no longer exists now and nor did it, even in the 1990's. When his new sojourn begins his observations of Britishness and the things that make the place unusual, are crisp, clear, precise, amusing and cleverly insightful. He draws a picture of those things that we, as Brit's, so often overlook and take for granted, things that make us uniquely us.

I first read this book a few of years after it was originally published in 1995 and loved it, especially as I was living away from the UK at the time. It was a delightful read and had me laughing-out-load in places. Revisiting it again, over fifteen years later, was no less entertaining. This travelogue offers a rare insight into a country and it's people in time. It provides wonderfully clear and expansive descriptions of it's various places. It is an entertaining and humorous account and a joy to read. Even though the years may have rolled on it is clear that some things just don't change. Notes from a Small Island really is a timeless read.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dolled Up for Murder - Deb Baker

Gretchen Birch receives a frantic phone call in the early hours of the morning from her aunt in Arizona. She is told that her mother, Caroline, has gone missing and one of the neighbours has been found dead on the hill behind her mother's house. Thinking that her aunt Nina's tendency to exaggerate and be dramatic might be at the bottom of this "crisis" she heads to Arizona anyway, to find out why her aunt is so worried. When she gets to her mother's house, Gretchen soon realises something is really wrong, especially when she finds that the only thing missing out of all of Caroline's personal belongings appears to be her car - even her toothbrush is still in the bathroom!

What follows is a race to find out what really happened to the neighbour, Martha, who police now believe was murdered and as Caroline has become the chief suspect due to what appears to be an incriminating note found in Martha's hand, time is running out.

This story is really interesting in many ways. It takes the reader on a journey into the world of the doll trade and provides some great insight into the restoration, buying, selling and collecting of antique dolls of all kinds. The murder victim was obsessed with dolls which were like children to her. She once had a extensive and highly valuable collection, but, due to her inability to stop buying more and more expensive pieces, she got in trouble with the bank and lost her home, her collection and ultimately became an alcoholic vagrant living on the streets with other people down on their luck.

In spite of the story being quite suspenseful and there being several possible suspects, it lost a little of it's appeal to me because of the numerous spelling and grammar mistakes throughout. The story would have really benefitted from another edit. As far as the quality of the mystery goes, I had the culprit figured out about 60% of the way through but it was an interesting read, none-the-less.

If you like a fairly decent murder mystery and are interested or would like to know more about the world of dolls, then this is the book for you.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

The House We Grew Up In - Lisa Jewell

This book did not leave my hands for almost two days! (I have so much work to catch up with, now!)

The House We Grew Up In is a beautiful, sensitive portrayal of human frailty and the power of coping beyond what appear to be insurmountable obstacles.

Lisa Jewell deals with some serious subjects in this story and many of the topics are dark and difficult to read about, but, none of that stops this wonderful, well written book from being compelling!

When I realized that one of the central characters had a hoarding issue, I wondered if the whole thing might not be too dark and depressing to get through. It became apparent very quickly that the story was an essay on the human condition and that hoarding was just one facet of that condition. It turned out to be a very uplifting read in spite of all the difficult subjects involved!

This story will stay with me for a long time. In fact, I will definitely read it again because it is so well written, so beautifully haunting and such a great testimony to the human spirit.

It will be released in the US by Atria Books on August 12th, 2014.

If you want a moving, memorable and completely mesmerising read, this is the book for you.