Book Club bag

The perfect bag for any book lover…

Book Club bagStepping aside for a moment from strictly book reviews, I picked up this amazing Disaster Designs bag the other day from amazing local shop Lisa Angel and felt I had to share! Shaped like a book, it’s a gorgeous clutch bag decorated with the front, back and spine of a book, with ‘Observations of a Night Owl’ in gold across the front. It has detachable straps incase you want to go hands-free and fastens with a zip. The shape of the bag means there’s a surprising amount of room inside for bits and bobs.  I really love different accessories so £35 seemed really reasonable for something so unique!

There is also a matching purse, £25, from the brand’s ‘Book Club’ range in a varietyof colours/ designs – all of which are also lovely! Lisa Angel also stocks other Disaster Designs products.

The best bit – for those of you who aren’t local to Norwich, Lisa Angel has free shipping  – even for international customers- and also free returns!

Apple Tree Yard banner

‘Apple Tree Yard’ is well worth a visit…

Apple Tree Yard banner

This is a really quick review because I don’t really know how much I can talk about Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty without giving too much away! When I read the book I had only read the back cover and had not heard anyone else speak about the actual content, I’d just heard and saw reviews saying that it is a good, gripping read. Therefore I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who might pick to read this, so this will be a fairly short review…

We discovered that safety and security are commodities you can sell in return for excitement but you can never buy them back.

Apple Tree Yard front coverThe story is told from Yvonne Carmichael’s perspective, a woman with a high flying career and a seemingly good marriage. But one day she meets a mysterious stranger and there begins a passionate affair. Taking risks, she struggles to keep the two sides of life separate – but, as the back cover states, ‘she can’t control what happens next.’

The novel includes what happens in the run up to the ‘incident’ that shapes both her and her secret lover’s lives, and then includes a lot of detail from inside her trial. Yes, she is standing trial for something! You find that out early on and this is given away in the description of the book on amazon so I can let you know that. The trial description is very detailed at times and some might find it too much so but I was kept interested throughout!

This is not by any means a love story. Although love may be the motivation for much of what happens in the novel, the reader is actually submersed in a quite dark and bewildering affair. As a character Yvonne does not seem particularly likeable, and although I do at various points feel sorry for her, overall it is hard to be completely sympathetic with someone who is cheating on her husband. This made me feel quite conflicted whilst reading it. The storyline is really quite shocking and nightmarish, especially reading it as a female.

Apple Tree Yard is intriguing, a bit different and kept me hooked! I felt like it made me think as I read it as it tackles some quite difficult issues. It definitely makes me want to read more of Louise Doughty’s work as I love a good psychological thriller!

Definitely recommended to those who fancy reading something a little different and also, at times, very uncomfortable.

Rating: 5/5

Decalogue For a Reader

This is pretty much gospel!

Attenti al Lupo

  1. You have the right to read                               oldbooks
  2. You have the right to read whatever you want
  3. You have the right to stop reading a bad book
  4. You have the right to stop reading a good book
  5. You have the right not to like a famous book
  6. You have the right not to like any book
  7. You have the right to reread the same book
  8. You have the right to be bored by Moby-Dick
  9. You have the right to not understand a book
  10. You have the right to read sitting on the toilet

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The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch – worth every second

The Goldfinch

Having massively enjoyed The Secret History by Donna Tartt, reading The Goldfinch was an easy decision. Though the two are incredibly different in subject matter, both novels are, in my opinion, masterfully told stories that really absorbed me.

“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?” 

In The Goldfinch, Theo Decker’s mother is killed in a bomb explosion in the New York Metropolitan Museum. At just 12 years old he is alive but motherless and, as he struggles through the rubble of the building, he ends up leaving with an incredibly valuable painting titled ‘The Goldfinch’. This painting exists outside the realms of fiction and is the work of Rembrandt’s talented student Fabritius, who died in an explosion a short time after painting The Goldfinch – and here Theo’s life mirrors Fabritius’. Theo is not an intentional thief but in fact seems to almost ‘end up’ with the painting after a sentimental meeting with an old man and his niece, who leaves a lasting impression upon Theo. What follows is a hugely gripping, emotive narrative which follows Theo’s young life right into adulthood.

We see touching elements of Theo’s life before he loses his mother, but the novel mainly focuses on what follows and the way his life is shaped by that single incident. It is interesting to see how every aspect of Theo’s life would have been altered if he had not taken the painting – he ends up living with his failure of a father and father’s girlfriend in Vegas, and falls into a cycle of drugs and alcoholism with new friend Boris.

“… I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.”

The book is so big – a mammoth 771 pages no less – and so much happens in it that I won’t attempt to try and give even a basic account of the plot (plus I don’t want to give it away for those who read it). However, there are a variety of things I loved about this book which I felt was just so brilliant and definitely one of the best books I’ve ever written.

The first aspect of the book that really drew me in was the beautiful telling of Theo’s life both before and after his mother’s death. I really felt for him as an orphan who even his grandparents didn’t want, as Donna Tartt creates a character that you care so much about. Even his wild friend Boris, who at various points does not seem to be good news for Theo, has a personality that makes you smile despite the often gritty, depressing circumstances both boys are in. Hobie, who ends up taking Theo in, is a truly likeable character which makes a nice change for poor Theo, largely surrounded by destructive, greedy people.

I also loved the way the novel takes the reader to so many places – from Manhattan to Vegas to Amsterdam, the novel never fails to really envelope you in its surroundings, and not just in a way that suggests the author has simply read up a small amount on these places to get the ‘general feel’. No, you really feel like you get to know the settings, adding to the overall enjoyment of the story which touches upon the dark world of death, love, addiction, art, adolescence and urban life, to name but a few.

“…as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.”

I truly didn’t want the novel to end, and enjoyed almost every word, but my one criticism would be that there were some points in the story that, in my opnion, could perhaps have been edited down a little. There were just a few small points in the novel where I found myself tempted to skim read over some of the length description – though I didn’t, knowing that I wanted to enjoy every part of it while it lasted.

I would thoroughly recommend reading The Goldfinch, whether you’ve read other novels by Donna Tartt or not – but you have been warned, it’s not a light holiday read!

Rating: 4.5/5

Have you read The Goldfinch? What did you think of it?

Elijah’s Mermaid

ELIJAHS-MERMAID-coverElijah’s Mermaid by Essie Fox is a thrilling tale of love and betrayal which sweeps the reader through 19th century England, from London’s murky brothels to the contrasting upper-class society.

The novel follows Lily and Elijah, orphaned twins who are taken to live with their grandfather on a prosperous estate, and Pearl, and orphan who grows up in a brothel being groomed for life as a prostitute. A chance meeting of all three in a freak show tent leads to their very different lives becoming entwined.

Without giving too much away about the book for those who might go on to read it, the story is told from two perspectives – Lily and Pearl’s – and follows the twists and turns in their lives as they grow up.  I do feel it’s a shame that there isn’t another part told from Elijah’s perspective, but the mixed-media style, with its inclusion of newspaper cuttings and diary entries, gives alternative accounts of events and offers the reader a small insight into various other character’s experiences, including Elijah’s.

I was a little disappointed that all the females in the novel seemed very much to be victims of the ‘stronger’, domineering males – but perhaps this simply reflects the situation most women were in at the time, particularly when considering the way women were treated as the weaker, unstable sex.

“He was tapping his cane against his thigh while sliding closer to Freddie and speaking confidentially. ‘Women are so like children, you see, in their appetites for unhealthy food.  It is the heat and overexcitement that causes most of the trouble…not to mention this modern obsession with reading books and magazines.  You will note we have none available here.  Why, half the women in my care would probably be entirely sane but for the stimulation brought on by the use of literature.  I say that might be the problem…'”

mermaid copyOne of the things I loved about reading this novel is the bizarre, often unsettling images Fox includes – from the misshapen physical manifestations of syphilis to the shrivelled mermaid and the awful treatment of women medically in mental institutions.

Essie Fox writes with suspense, painting a picture of what Victorian London’s gloomy underbelly was like for all walks of life without being excessively descriptive, resulting in a dark and unsettling social commentary that surely cannot fail to capture the imagination.

Definitely an author I’ll be reading more of!

Vist Essie Fox’s website for more information on the author, her works and the background to both novels: http://essiefox.com/

Rating: 4/5

First post and hello…

Hello there,

This blog is mainly dedicated to books. Anything I’ve read, whatever genre, I will share along with other things I think are interesting. I don’t always get as much time to read as I’d like, but when I do, I really enjoy a great book. Not only is it relaxing but it’s great to have an absorbing, riveting story to get stuck into.

Along with watching films (both at home and at the cinema), making crafty bits and bike rides, a good book is one of my favourite ways to spend my spare time. For those who enjoy reading, you’ll get it – and for those that don’t enjoy reading full stop, hopefully there’ll be other bits on here to keep it interesting!

Laura xo

Ps. If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them on here- I’ll get back to everyone, and if you have any recommendations for books to read I’d love to hear them