Review: Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

 


Title: Space Hopper

Author: Helen Fisher

Published: 4th February 2021, Simon & Schuster UK

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Simon & Schuster Australia

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This is a story about taking a leap of faith. And believing the unbelievable

They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect.

I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight. And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.

Right now, you probably think I’m going mad.

Let me explain…

Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?

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My Thoughts:

“Space Hopper is an original and poignant story about mothers, memories and moments that shape life.”

… says the publisher, and they are right. I appreciated the idea behind this book, but unfortunately I just didn’t connect at all with the main character, which I think is essential with a first person narrative.

It’s my belief that Space Hopper is most likely to resonate with women who lost a parent, particularly a mother, at a young age, and can therefore empathise with Faye’s obsession. Someone of a Christian faith is also less likely to be bothered by the religious overtones than I was.

While not for me, Space Hopper may be perfect for you.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK I Amazon

Review: Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory

Title: Dark Tides {Fairmile #2}

Author: Philippa Gregory

Published: 24th November 2020, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status: Read December 2020 courtesy Simon & Schuster

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My Thoughts:

Dark Tides is the second book in Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction series, The Fairmile, and begins twenty one years after Tidelands ends.

Alinor Reekie and her daughter, Alys, have long left Sealsea Island behind and now reside on the banks of the Thames River, operating a small warehouse that services unlading ships. Alinor, who has has never regained full health after the near drowning she endured, supplements the family’s income with herbal preparations, while Alys’s children, twins Johnnie and Sarah, contribute what they can from their wages as apprentices. They live simply, honestly, and quietly, but unexpected visitors suddenly throw the family into turmoil.

The first of their visitors is James Avery aka James Summers, the man who deserted Alinor at her most vulnerable, leaving her heartbroken and pregnant. Having recovered his title and family fortune, and recently widowed, he is seeking the child he assumes Alinor birthed, desperately desiring an heir.

The second visitor brings tragic news, calling herself Nobildonna Livia da Ricci, with a babe in her arms, she claims to be the widow of Rob, Alinor’s son. Tearfully she tells the family Rob, who was practicing as a doctor in Venice, drowned in a boating accident and now she has come to England to raise their son as an Englishman.

To be honest I’m as disappointed by this sequel as I was surprised by Tidelands. Alinor is reduced to a minor character, I never much cared for Alys, and care for her even less here. Avery is still a fool, Livia and her machinations are entirely transparent, and Sarah’s potential is squandered.

I could have forgiven a lot if the plot hadn’t turned out to be almost wholly predictable, it’s immediately clear that Livia can’t be trusted and the story pivots around her obvious deceptions.

Additionally the story itself largely lacks the atmospheric appeal of Tidelines, Gregory uses not more than broad strokes to describe the life along the Thames, and I felt she gave Venice short shrift.

There is a second storyline that runs through the book which features Ned, Alinor’s brother, who fled to the New World (America) when Cromwell was unseated and a new King retook the throne. While I had some interest in Ned’s experience, there was very little action, and though the theme’s echoed that of his sister’s story, the storyline as a whole was superfluous.

I realise my assessment here is quite harsh, but I am struggling to find anything particularly positive to say. I did finish it, so it wasn’t unreadable, but I don’t think it was any more than barely okay, though I’m sure others will disagree.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK I Indiebound

Also by Philippa Gregory reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: Poly by Paul Dalgarno

Title: Poly

Author: Paul Dalgarno

Published: September 1st 2020, Ventura Press

Status: Read August 2020, courtesy Ventura Press

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My Thoughts:

I chose to read Poly by Paul Delgarno primarily because I like to support debut Australian authors, but also because my curiously was piqued by the premise.

Chris Flood is a married father of two young children who hasn’t had sex with his wife more than a handful of times in nearly three years. Hoping to reignite her libido he’s reluctantly agreed to an ‘open’ marriage, and grits his teeth every time the love of his life trips off to make love with someone(s) who isn’t him.

I know little about the polyamorous lifestyle, but it seems exhausting. While Sarah flits from lover to lover, Chris surprises himself when he finds a younger partner willing to accept their unconventional set-up, but it’s all a little messy as they attempt to juggle dates, overnights, partying, work, and parenting. Help comes from new friend, Zac Batista, who quickly inserts himself into the household, but it eventually becomes clear that his motives aren’t as altruistic as they appear.

Chris and Sarah’s relationship is not one I’d aspire to, I am aware that such relationships generally don’t work in the long term without both partners being committed to each other, and Sarah makes several decisions that are blatantly disrespectful to their marriage. Chris is not exactly happy much of the time, secretly cyber- stalking Sarah’s lovers, worried that he isn’t meeting Biddy’s needs, and desperate for some ‘alone’ time. Actually very few of the adults in Poly seem happy, Chris’s brother is depressed, Biddy’s housemates are bitter drunks, and Zac, as it turns out, is a pathological liar.

The ending may suggest that they’ve found a way to make their new lifestyle work, complete with a ‘the kids are alright’ scene, but I’m left with the impression that it can’t be anything but temporary, particularly as the issues between Chris and Sarah remain largely unresolved.

While the domestic drama, general chaos, and black humour in Poly is entertaining, I just don’t see that the story has much of a point, and as such was left feeling underwhelmed.

++++++

Available from Ventura Press

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

 

Title: The Other Passenger

Author: Louise Candlish

Published: July 8th 2020, Simon & Schuster Au

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy Simon & Schuster

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My Thoughts:

“Like all commuter horror stories, mine begins in the mean light of early morning – or, at least, officially it does.”

When James Buckby disembarks from his riverboat commute to Central London, he is met by two police officers eager to question him about his missing friend, Kit Roper. The police, it transpires, are acting on information from another passenger who witnessed an argument between Jamie and Kit days earlier, and suspect foul play.

The story of Kit’s fate unfolds from the first perspective of Jamie, whose narrative may or may not be reliable, as he details how he and his partner, Clare, met and befriended Kit, and his wife Melia. Their friendship develops quickly but soon grows complicated, tainted with betrayal, envy and deception.

I expect I’ll be in the minority, but unfortunately I struggled to finish The Other Passenger. Though the plot, when it finally unravels, is surprising and clever, exactly what I expect from Candlish, I found the build up too slow and the characters largely so unappealing, I didn’t much care what happened to any of them.

You may feel otherwise, and I wouldn’t like to discourage anyone from picking this up. I truly admired the twists, but I can’t personally rate it as any more than okay.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK

 

Also by Louise Candlish reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: The Operator by Gretchen Berg

 

Title: The Operator

Author: Gretchen Berg

Published: March 10th 2020, William Morrow

Status: Read March 2020, courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

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My Thoughts:

I had been looking forward to reading The Operator, expecting something light, and quirky, perhaps with a bit of an edge, in a wholesome 1950’s small town setting.

That’s not really what this is though. The Operator is satire, exploring the darker side of small town life that lurks beneath the veneer of respectability.

I struggled with The Operator, in large part because I didn’t much care much for the characters. The residents of Wooster, Ohio, or at least those with whom we spend the most time, Vivian and Betty, are mainly unpleasant, perpetually unsatisfied, small-minded women whose flaws are their own undoing. Vivian’s lifelong habit of eavesdropping, which she indulges freely as a telephone operator, proves the old adage, “eavesdroppers never hear any good of themselves”, true. While Betty, a spiteful, snob is ripe to learn, “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

Though I found the pacing a little slow and disjointed through the first half, the story has its moments as Vivian digs into the secrets being kept from her, exposing scandals far more serious than who has answered the door without makeup on, including premarital pregnancy, adultery, robbery, bigamy, and desertion.

Of additional interest, the author’s note reveals the story is loosely based on her own grandmother’s life and as such some elements of the story are rooted in fact, including the misspelled recipes, poems, and a news article.

I didn’t particularly enjoy The Operator, though I didn’t particularly dislike it either, it just wasn’t for me. It may be just what your looking for though.

++++++

Read a Sample

Available from William Morrow

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Review: Takes One To Know One by Susan Isaacs

 

Title: Takes One To Know One

Author: Susan Isaacs

Published: October 1st 2019, Grove Atlantic

Status: Read September 2019, courtesy Grove Atlantic/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

I was excited by the premise of Susan Isaacs Takes One To Know One and I’d really been looking forward to it reaching the top of my pile.

“Just a few years ago, Corie Geller was busting terrorists as an agent for the FBI. But at thirty-five, she traded in her badge for the stability of marriage and motherhood. Now Corie is married to the brilliant and remarkably handsome Judge Josh Geller and is the adoptive mother of his lovely 14-year-old daughter. Between cooking meals and playing chauffeur, Corie scouts Arabic fiction for a few literary agencies and, on Wednesdays, has lunch with her fellow Shorehaven freelancers at a so-so French restaurant. Life is, as they say, fine.

But at her weekly lunches, Corie senses that something’s off. Pete Delaney, a milquetoast package designer, always shows up early, sits in the same spot (often with a different phone in hand), and keeps one eye on the Jeep he parks in the lot across the street. Corie intuitively feels that Pete is hiding something–and as someone who is accustomed to keeping her FBI past from her new neighbors, she should know. But does Pete really have a shady alternate life, or is Corie just imagining things, desperate to add some spark to her humdrum suburban existence? She decides that the only way to find out is to dust off her FBI toolkit and take a deep dive into Pete Delaney’s affairs.”

So when I was considering giving up on it, just a little more than a quarter of the way through, I opted instead to put it aside for twenty four hours, and then try again. Honestly I picked it back up reluctantly and I have to admit the next quarter or so was still a slog, then at about the halfway point, the pace picked up and I suddenly couldn’t put it down.

I’m not exactly sure why I found the first half of Takes One To Know One so laborious. Told through Corie Geller’s first person perspective, the narrative felt, at times, closer to a stream of consciousness, bogged down in the details of Corie’s life. To be fair I think the poor formatting of the e-arc may have contributed to that impression, as there is no spacing between paragraphs, or even chapters, resulting in an uncomfortable run-on effect. That I didn’t really warm to Corie’s angst regarding the changes her marriage had wrought, probably didn’t help either.

For me the story finally got interesting when Corie began seriously investigating Pete Delaney and the narrative became more interactive (if that makes sense). As Corie considers and discards potential criminal scenarios that Pete Delaney could be involved in, she calls on ex colleagues for information, uses her best friend, Wynne, as a sounding board, and involves her dad, a retired police detective, in her investigation. It all eventually leads to a tense confrontation that I found unexpectedly thrilling.

I’m not sure that I can say the last half of the book was enough to redeem Takes One To Know One for me, but it’s entirely possible that you may not find the first half as problematic as I did, it may be worth a try if the premise appeals.

++++++

Available from Grove Atlantic

Or from your preferred retailer Indiebound I Book Depository I

Review: Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

 

Title: Our Stop

Author: Laura Jane Williams

Published: August 8th 2019, Avon UK

Status: Read August 2019, courtesy Avon/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

Our Stop is a light hearted romantic comedy from UK columnist and Instagram influencer, Laura Jane Williams.

“To the devastatingly cute blonde girl on the Northern line with the black designer handbag and coffee stains on her dress–you get on at Angel, on the 7.30, always at the end nearest the escalator, and always in a hurry. I’m the guy who’s standing near the doors of your carriage, hoping today’s a day you haven’t overslept. Drink some time?”

Not quite sure how to introduce himself to the ‘devastatingly cute blonde girl’ who regularly shares his train carriage during his morning commute, Daniel Weissman opts to place a message in ‘Missed Connections’. Nadia Fielding is not entirely convinced the message is meant for her but she is willing to take a chance of finding true love, and replies. A flirtation ensues through the column, but when their first planned meeting goes awry it seems it will all come to nothing…unless fate steps in.

Generally the tone of the Our Stop is a light and witty romance with a very millennial vibe, though Williams touches on some serious issues such as emotional abuse, consent, depression, and UK politics.

The story unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Nadia and Daniel as their relationship is impeded by a series of missed opportunities. Nadia is likeable enough, a fairly typical heroine for the genre, except that her work has something to do with artificial intelligence, which does make a nice change from the usual professions (PR/PA) pursued by romcom heroines. Daniel is perhaps a little too perfect – embodying the ideal ‘millennial’ male, but appealing nonetheless, and I particularly liked the portrayal of his relationships with his friends, and parents.

It’s not easy to develop romantic tension over the length of a book between two people who never meet, nor given the need for a string of contrived near-misses, to sustain interest in the potential of the relationship, but I thought Williams did so reasonably well. While I did feel it was all dragged out a bit too long overall, I wanted to see how Williams would finally bring Nadia and Daniel together, and I was satisfied when they finally got their happy ever after.

Ultimately Our Stop was an okay read for me, not quite as engaging as I was hoping for, but not bad either.

++++++

Available from Avon UK

Or your preferred retailer via Booko I Indiebound

Review: The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin

 

Title: The Accidentals

Author: Minrose Gwin

Published: August 13th 2019, William Morrow

Status: Read August 2019 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

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My Thoughts:

It was the blurb of The Accidentals that caught my attention, promising a generational story focused primarily on two sisters, June and Grace McAlister, beginning in the 1950’s with the death of their mother, Olivia, from a botched backyard abortion.

I liked the first quarter of this novel, which concentrated on the sisters’ child and teen years after the loss of their mother, and feel that had Gwin kept this her focus, I would have been quite satisfied. Unfortunately I soon began to feel that the characters became passengers, rather than agents, of the story.

The author seemed determined to make reference to every topical social issue possible, including but not limited to, homosexuality, abortion, teen pregnancy, racism, ‘passing’, mental illness, gender inequality, Alzheimers, cancer, the rights of felons to vote, as well as touching on major cultural events such as WWII, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Challenger Disaster, and Obama’s Inaugural Presidential Run. As such, much like the birds – the ‘accidental’s’ that lose their way = so too does this story.

Which is a shame, because it’s clear that Gwin can write, and there was a lot of good here. It’s an emotionally charged novel, perhaps bleaker than I was expecting, but also often moving and sincere.

I didn’t dislike The Accidental’s, it just didn’t quite work for me, but it may well work for you.

Read a sample

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Available from HarperCollins US

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository

Review: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife by Barbara Toner

 

Title: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife

Author: Barbara Toner

Published: April 2nd 2019, Bantam Australia

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse AU

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My Thoughts:

Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife is the sequel to Barbara Toner’s novel, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband.

In the intervening decade, Pearl McLeary has become a married mother of four, Adelaide Nightingale has been widowed, Maggie O’Connell is unhappily married, and not one of them is happy about the return of Louisa Worthington to Prospect.

Perhaps if I had read Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband previously, I would have been more invested in the characters, and hence the story. But unfortunately I have to admit I mostly found this quite hard going, though I did read to the end as I wanted to know how the four women resolved their issues.

I expect that those readers who enjoyed Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband, will also enjoy this.

Read an Extract

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Purchase from Penguin Australia or your preferred retailer via Booko

 

Review: One for the Books by Joe Queenan

 

Title: One for the Books

Author: Joe Queenan

Published: October 2012 Viking

Read: Read December 2012

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My Thoughts:

 

I had hoped Joe Queenan’s ‘One for the Books’ would prove to be an exception from the often stuffy, professorial tomes that wax lyrical about the joys of reading, as long as that reading is almost exclusively authored by, or about, Dead White Dudes (D.W.D).

In part it was, but unfortunately Queenan’s humour doesn’t quite negate his narrow definition of what ‘good books’ are. Queenan is a book snob, dismissing genre fiction almost in its entirety, and championing way too many D.W.D.

I was particularly frustrated by Queenan’s dismissive attitudes to libraries (his white male privilege is showing there), and his hatred of ebooks, and ereaders. I own about equal amounts of both print and ebooks, that brings my current total to somewhere over 4000 books. I have read many more, owned many more, borrowed many more, given away many more. I have, and I doubt anyone I know would dispute it, ‘…engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with books…’ ,and I don’t care if they are written longhand on parchment, or are a complicated string of binary numbers…a book, is a book, is a book, no matter the format.

So, sadly, my search for a book from a self confessed bibliophile who isn’t contemptuous of the other 99% of readers continues.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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