Monday, 22 August 2016

The Odd Women - George Gissing

The odd women by george gissing
I first read The Odd Women by George Gissing nearly twenty years ago, when researching my dissertation. I recently decided to pick it up again and have another read, as, although I had really enjoyed it previously, I was reading now just for pleasure.

My dissertation was on women in the work place in the late 1800's, (being a History student, not English literature), in case you were wondering. The Odd Women was a perfect book to read, as it tells the story of women trying to find their way in what, at the time, was considered a non-traditional role. 

The book calls these women odd, not because they are unusual in their life choices, as you might first assume, but rather because they didn't have men to marry. Raised during a time when marriage was seen as the proper course for a young lady, there were simply more women than men. Meaning that a large number of women were 'odd'; they didn't have a partner.

The Odd Women looks at a number of different women, who all find themselves having to work for a living. Some who embrace this independence, some who look to the chance of an unhappy marriage, just to save them from the grind of working and some who are crushed by the experience of trying to live and support themselves.

In many ways George Gissing's book is ahead of it's time, suggesting ideas that would have no doubt seemed shocking at the time. His voice is very passive though, at no point does he show his own opinion on this, allowing the characters to discuss the options and situation. I do wonder if a women writing at the time would have been able to express such ideas, I rather suspect that despite the subject under discussion, it wouldn't have been considered suitable for women to discuss and may well have been dismissed as madness or ravings.

Although not a particularly uplifting book, it is still well worth a read. Time and attitudes may have moved on much since this was written, but it's still well worth a read. A little different to many of the novels written at a similar time. I'm glad that I picked it up again.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

International Author Day

International author dayIt's been a little while, mostly because I've been away on holiday. Although I have done quite a lot of reading in the mean time. New reviews soon. I did want to take part in the International Authors Day blog hop from Book Reviews.

But who to choose as my author to highlight? You may remember last year I reviewed a number of books by the wonderful P.B.Ryan, the Nell Sweeney Mysteries. So I thought that it might be a good time to mention the great series again as a bit of a 'thank you' for P.B Ryan for writing them.

If you're looking for a great read, then I really recommend you check them out. Need a bit more convincing? Then check out my reviews.

Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to check out the other blogs taking part and enter the competition at the bottom.
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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Loose Lips - Rae Davies

Loose lips by Ray Davies
I stumbled across the Dusty Deals mystery series a couple of years ago now, after reading all of the titles already released, I've been waiting for the next book in the series, so I was very excited when Loose Lips came out. The series follows Lucy, owner of the antique shop Dusty Deals, who has an uncanny knack of falling over the recently deceased. In a 'serious' mystery series, I think that the amount of dead people she seems to find would be hard to believe at the very least, but in this light-hearted and fun series, it only adds to the humour. 

Lucy never really solves these mysteries, so much as stumbles around the clues, revealing what has happened more often by accident than design, but really that's part of its charm. With the help of her Alaskan Malamute (not a husky!) Kiska,

This time, Lucy's boyfriend, Peter, detective at the local police department is on her side and advising her against the new detective in the police station, who is a little more suspicious of Lucy's involvement in the mystery.

After a new coffee shop opens, run by coffee 'cuties' who seem to have a little side business running and have upset many of the local women, while the men seem very keen to take their custom there. Lucy decides to find out more about the appeal of this new business and in the process discovers the owner dead. Has long standing coffee shop taken the competition a little too seriously, or is something else going on?

The dusty deals series is a great, light-hearted read, when you're looking for something a little less serious. Although it does have the odd dead body, it doesn't have the dark overtones that some mystery books have. If you're looking for a fun read, then I'd highly recommend this series.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Made to be broken - Rebecca Bradley

Made to be Broken is the second in the DI Hannah Robbins series. Having read the first book, Shallow Waters earlier this year, and having really enjoyed it, I jumped at the chance of reading a pre-release copy of this new book. I wasn't disappointed.

DI Hannah Robbins is dealing with the aftermath of the previous story and since then hasn't really had a tough case to get her teeth into. A young mother is found dead, with no clear signs of what could have caused it. It soon becomes clear though, that she is just the first in a spate of poison victims, who seem to have no connection with one another. What begins as a seemingly straight forward case, quickly becomes something far more wide ranging and part of a much bigger and more disturbing picture. Suddenly this is something much bigger than anyone else first thought and Hannah finds herself at the centre of hysteria, panic and a race to catch the killer before there are yet more victims. 

The short chapters and changes of point of view, seeing the events unfold from Hannah, the victims' and the killer's point of view, makes for a gripping, fast moving story. There isn't a mystery to piece together, for us at least, but we follow Hannah as she attempts to find out just what it going on here and why.

Overall I loved the book and I'm looking forward to reading more about Hannah Robbins in the future. I also love the fact that it's set in Nottingham, somewhere that I know, at least a little, being near to my own home town. If you're looking for a gripping read, then you can't really go wrong with Made to be Broken. Due for release on 30th June.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood

The heart goes last by Margaret Atwood
I have been known, on a number of occasions, to credit Margaret Atwood with my love of reading. This isn't actually true, I'd developed a love of books long before I discovered her works. Having said that, A Handmaids Tale, was on of the first 'literary' books that I really, really enjoyed and re-read many times. Or at least, it's one of the first that stands out in my mind. I was in the lower sixth when I first came across it and read it while doing A level English Lit. There had been other books, other plays, that I had enjoyed and read more than once, but for some reason there was something about Atwood's work that really spoke to me.

Over the next couple of years I devoured everything else she'd written, finding other author's that I loved along the way. I've read everything that's she's published since, so when The Heart Goes Last came out, I knew that I had to read it.

There was a slight difference though with this one though; although I'd eagerly read the Oryx and Crake books as soon as they came out and other earlier works, I was a little reticent with this new book. A few years ago now, Atwood started to release a story in a series of instalments. Known as the Positron series, these small ebooks told the story of Stan and his wife Charmaine, who had signed up to live in social experiment, living half the time in a closed housing scheme where work is provided and the other half of the time in prison. After four episodes had been released, the publisher went out of business and the next episode never arrived. The Heart Goes Last is a rewritten (and now completed) novel version of the world and characters introduced to us in the Positron ebooks. I was a little reluctant to start again, albeit in a rewritten version.

All the same, I decided it give it a go. We join Stan and Charmaine before they enter Consilience, the spending half your time in prison experiment. Society, outside of the walls of this project, has fallen apart and people have lost everything, so prison, for half the time and the chance of food, a real house and safety seems like an ideal alternative. While the serial version introduced us straight to their life in Consilience, this book builds up the back story and their previous life first. This did make it a little slow to start, perhaps because having already read the serial version, I knew where this was going? Once we did finally get into Consilience and the 'real' story, the pace picked up a little. 

It's an interesting idea, trading your freedom for safety and security, because of course once our characters are in the experiment, both halves of their life are a prison, it's just that one looks like the traditional version of a prison and the other doesn't. Atwood is very skilled at showing us a vision of a future dystopia and how our current actions could lead us there, but while The Handmaids Tale and The Maddaddam trilogy show us a frightening picture of what the future could hold, the picture painted in the Positron/Consilience is just a little too silly, a little too far fetched. 

I don't dislike the Heart Goes Last, but I don't love it earlier. Somehow it just misses the mark in a way that her other books don't. I'm not sure if this was intended as a more comic and light hearted look at the future, but somehow it just doesn't quite make it for me. It didn't leave me with that uncomfortable feeling that the other worlds do. If you haven't read a Margaret Atwood book before, then don't start with this one, but if you are already a fan, by all means give it a go, just expect something a little different, a little odder and a little more bizarre than her usual work.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Absence of You - Sarah Elle Emm

Absence of You
by Sarah Elle Emm
Released on 17th May, 2016

About the Book:

Absence of You, a collection of poems, takes you through stages of love, from the first moments of falling, to heartache, to healing and growing. With Sarah Elle Emm’s simple, yet powerful, words and rhythm, venture through the ups and downs on this heartfelt journey.

Book Links:

About the Author:

Sarah Elle Emm is the author of ABSENCE OF YOU, LAST VACATION, the HARMONY RUN SERIES, and MARRYING MISSY. She has lived in Germany, England, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and traveled extensively beyond. Her writing cave is currently located in the Outer Banks. When she’s not leading kitchen dance parties with her daughters, she writes poetry and fiction.

Stalk the Author:

This Feature is a part of the Blogger Outreach Program by b00k r3vi3w Tours

Thursday, 26 May 2016

My Last Love Story - Falguni Kothari

I recently read My Last Love Story by Falguni Kothari, just before it was released. I didn't really know what to expect before I started the book. The author was new to me, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Simeen's husband Nirvaan is dying and they are trying, along with their best friend Zayaan to make the most of the time that Nirvaan has got left and really live life. Nirvaan is asking Simeen to have a baby, something she doesn't really want to do. She also has history, both with Zayaan and something traumatic that happened when she was 18 and changed her relationship with Nirvaan and Zayaan. 

Over the course of the book, Simeen is forced to face her past, her future and her relationships. I really enjoyed the way that the three main characters developed over the course of the book and as we learnt more about them. It could have descended into sentimental mush, but fortunately that didn't happen. The three main leads are all interesting and complex characters and it's easy to find yourself rooting for them as the story unfolds.

I really enjoyed this book; check it out.

About the Book:
Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes’s, Me Before You, My Last Love Story is a heartbreakingly romantic tale about the complexities of trauma and whether love can right a wrong.

I, Simeen Desai, am tired of making lemonade with the lemons life has handed me.

Love is meant to heal wounds.
Love was meant to make my world sparkle and spin.
Love has ripped my life apart and shattered my soul. 

I love my husband, and he loves me.
But Nirvaan is dying.
I love my husband. I want to make him happy.
But he is asking for the impossible. 

I don’t want a baby.
I don’t want to make nice with Zayaan.
I don’t want another chance at another love story. 

Book Links:

My Review:

Read an Excerpt:

Dear Readers, thank you for coming along on the My Last Love Story Blog Tour. Here’s an excerpt to enjoy.


“Love is a dish best served naked.”
As a child, those oft-quoted words of my father would have me rolling my eyes and pretending to gag at what I’d imagined was my parents’ precursor to a certain physical act. 
At thirty, I’d long ago realized that getting naked wasn’t a euphemism for sex. 
Neither was love.
It wasn’t my father wording the meme just now but my husband. Nirvaan considered himself a great wit, a New Age philosopher. On the best of days, he was, much like Daddy had been. On the worst days, he was my tormentor. 
“What do you think, Dr. Archer? Interesting enough tagline for a vlog? What about ‘Baby in a Petri Dish’?” Nirvaan persisted in eliciting a response from the doctor and/or me for his ad hoc comedy, which we’d been ignoring for several minutes now.
I wanted to glare at him, beg him to shut up, or demand that he wait in the doctor’s office like he should’ve done, like a normal husband would have. Khodai knows why he’d insisted on holding my hand through this preliminary checkup. Nothing of import would happen today—if it did at all. But I couldn’t perform any such communication, not with my eyes and mouth squeezed shut while I suffered through a series of uncomfortable twinges along my nether regions. 
I lay flat on my back on a spongy clinic bed sheeted with paper already wrinkled and half torn. Legs drawn up and spread apart, my heels dug punishingly into cold iron stirrups to allow my gynecologist’s clever fingers to reach inside my womb and check if everything was A-OK in there. We’d already funneled through the Pap test and stomach and chest checks. Like them, this test, too, was going swell in light of Dr. Archer’s approving happy hums. 
“Excellent, Mrs. Desai. All parts are where they should be,” he joked only as a doctor could.
I shuddered out the breath I’d been holding, as the feeling of being stretched left my body. Nirvaan squeezed my hand and planted a smacking kiss on my forehead. I opened my eyes and focused on his beaming upside-down ones. His eyelids barely grew lashes anymore—I’d counted twenty-seven in total just last week—the effect of years of chemotherapy. For a second, my gaze blurred, my heart wavered, and I almost cried. 
What are we doing, Nirvaan? What in Khodai’s name were we starting?
Nirvaan stroked my hair, his pitch-black pupils steady and knowing and oh-so stubborn. Then, his face rose to the stark white ceiling, and all I saw was the green-and-blue mesh of his gingham shirt—the overlapping threads, the crisscross weaves, a pattern without end. 
Life is what you make it, child. It was another one of my father’s truisms.
Swallowing the questions twirling on my tongue, I refocused my mind on why we were here. I’d promised Nirvaan we’d try for a baby if he agreed to another round of cancer-blasting treatments. I’d bartered for a few more months of my husband’s life. He’d bartered for immortality through our child.
Dr. Archer rolled away from between my legs to the computer station. He snapped off and disposed of the latex gloves. Then, he began typing notes in near-soundless staccato clicks. Though the examination was finished, I knew better than to sit up until he gave me leave. I’d been here before, done this before—two years ago when Nirvaan had been in remission and the idea of having a baby had wormed its way into his head. We’d tried the most basic procedures then, whatever our medical coverage had allowed. We hadn’t been desperate yet to use our own money, which we shouldn’t be touching even now. We needed every penny we had for emergencies and alternative treatments, but try budging my husband once he’d made up his mind.
“I’m a businessman, Simi. I only pour money into a sure thing,” he rebuked when I argued.
I brought my legs together, manufacturing what poise and modesty I could, and pulled the sea-green hospital gown bunched beneath my bottom across my half-naked body. I refused to look at my husband as I wriggled about, positive his expression would be pregnant with irony, if not fully smirking. And kudos to him for not jumping in to help me like I would have. 
The tables had turned on us today. For the past five years, it’d been Nirvaan thrashing about on hospital beds, trying in vain to find relief and comfort, modesty or release. Nirvaan had been poked, prodded, sliced, and bled as he battled aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I’d been the stoic spectator, the supportive wife, the incompetent nurse, the ineffectual lover. 
And now? What role would I play now?
As always, thinking about our life left me feeling even more naked than I was in the open-fronted robe. I turned my face to the wall, my eyes stinging, as fear and frustration bubbled to the surface. Flesh-toned posters of laughing babies, pregnant mothers, and love-struck fathers hung from the bluish walls. Side by side were the more educative ones of human anatomy, vivisected and whole. The test-tube-like exam room of Monterey Bay Fertility Clinic was decorated in true California beach colors—sea-foam walls, sandy floors, pearl-pink curtains, and furniture—bringing the outdoors in. If the decor was meant to be homey, it wasn’t having such an effect on me. This room, like this town and even this country, was not my natural habitat, and I felt out of my element in it. 
I’d lived in California for seven years now, ever since my marriage, and I still didn’t think of it as home, not like Nirvaan did. Home for me was India. And no matter the dark memories it held, home would always be Surat.
“All done.” Dr. Archer pushed the computer trolley away and stood up. “You can get dressed, Mrs. Desai. Take your time. Use whatever supplies you need. We’ll wait for you in my office,” he said, smiling. 
Finally, I can cover myself, I thought. Gooseflesh had erupted across my skin due to the near frigid clinic temperatures doctors tortured their patients with—like a patient didn’t have enough to suffer already. Medical facilities maintained cool indoor temperatures to deter inveterate germs from contaminating the premises and so its vast flotilla of equipment didn’t fry. I knew that. But knowing it still didn’t inspire any warm feelings in me for the “throng of professional sadists with a god complex.” I quoted my husband there. 
Nirvaan captured my attention with a pat on my head. “See you soon, baby,” he said, following the doctor out of the room. 
I scooted off the bed as soon as the door shut behind them. My hair tumbled down my face and shoulders at my jerky movements. I smoothed it back with shaking hands. Long, wavy, and a deep chestnut shade, my hair was my crowning glory, my one and only feature that was lush and arresting. Nirvaan loved my hair. I wasn’t to cut it or even braid it in his presence, and so it often got hopelessly knotted. 
I shrugged off the clinic gown, balled it up, and placed it on the bed. I wiped myself again and again with antiseptic wipes, baby wipes, and paper towels until the tissues came away stain-free. I didn’t feel light-headed. I didn’t allow myself to freak. I concentrated on the flow of my breaths and the pounding of my heart until they both slowed to normal. 
It was okay. I was not walking out with a gift-wrapped baby in tow. Not today. No reason to freak out.
I reached for my clothes and slipped on my underwear. They were beige with tiny white hearts on them—Victoria’s Secret lingerie Nirvaan had leered and whistled at this morning. 
Such a silly man. Typical Nirvaan, I corrected, twisting my lips. 
Even after dressing in red-wash jeans and a full-sleeved sweater, I shivered. My womb still felt invaded and odd. As I stepped into my red patent leather pumps, an unused Petri dish sitting on the workstation countertop caught my eye. 
The trigger for Nirvaan’s impromptu comedy, perhaps? 
Despite major misgivings about the Hitleresque direction my life had taken, humor got the better of me, and I grinned. 
Silly, silly Nirvaan. Baby in a Petri dish, indeed.

About the Author:

Falguni Kothari is an internationally bestselling hybrid author and an amateur Latin and Ballroom dance silver medalist with a background in Indian Classical dance. She writes in a variety of genres sewn together by the colorful threads of her South Asian heritage and expat experiences. When not writing or dancing, she fools around on all manner of social media, and loves to connect with her readers. My Last Love Story is her fourth novel.


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