MY ‘INTIMIDATING TBR’ TAG

Lovely  Eve Messenger  tagged us all for this more unusual book tag – ‘My Intimidating TBR’ Tag. I do like completing the tags occasionally and couldn’t resist giving this one a go. Like Eve, I’m encouraging everyone to join the fun and consider themselves tagged.

  1. What book have you been unable to finish?

magic

‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is a book I was so excited to read, keen doesn’t cover it. I have read two thirds of it; found it inspiring, funny and wise at times. Then I will find a section which for me is annoying, cliche, blasé and undeserving of a such a good writer. For this reason alone I still have not got round to finishing this book.

Here is a taster: 

‘The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one…when courage dies, creativity dies with it.’

‘The writer Rebecca Solnit puts is well: “So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.” Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.’

(PS. I recently finished her brilliant ‘The Signature of All Things’ and can highly recommend this book.)

2. What book have you yet to read because you just haven’t had the time?

birds

‘Birds Without Wings’ by Louis de Bernieres

A while ago I read an interview with Louis de Bernieres of ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ fame. Whilst he appreciates the fame and success the book and later the film brought him, he considers his more recent novel, ‘Birds Without Wings’, the true classic and worthier novel. At 625 pages of intense and literary writing this is a book that deserves time and concentration so I’m still waiting for that perfect (many long) moments! This brief outline explains the scope and setting: 

‘Set against the backdrop of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks, Birds Without Wings traces the fortunes of one small community in south-west Anatolia – a town in which Christian and Muslim lives and traditions have co-existed peacefully for centuries.’

3. Which book have you yet to read because it is a sequel?

midwife

‘Our Own Country: A Novel (The Midwife Series)’ by Jodi Daynard

In March 2015 I reviewed ‘The Midwife’s Revolt’ and when I came across the next book in the series I could not pass up the opportunity to see whether Jodi Daynard keeps up the pace and emotion in her latest novel.  I hope it does not cover too much of the same ground however.

‘In 1770s Boston, a prosperous merchant’s daughter, Eliza Boylston, lives a charmed life—until war breaches the walls of the family estate and forces her to live in a world in which wealth can no longer protect her.’

4. What book have you yet to read because it is a new release?

small-great-things

‘small great things’ by Jodi Picoult

As a great fan of Jodi Picoult I always keep an eye out for her latest book. Her current novel-in-progress, ‘small great things’, is due out on 8th November 2016 and along with her fans around the world I’m looking forward to this latest sure-to-be bestseller. As usual she doesn’t shy away from controversial weighty topics; this time it’s race. 

‘Ruth, an African-American nurse, has worked at a CT hospital for nearly twenty years as a labor and delivery nurse. So when a young couple, Turk and Brittany, come into the hospital to have their baby, it is business as usual — until Turk calls in Ruth’s white supervisor after the birth. He says, “I don’t want her or anyone like her to touch my boy,” and pulls up his sleeve to reveal a Confederate flag tattoo: he and his wife are Skinheads.’

5. What book have you yet to read because you read a book by the same author and didn’t like it?

history

‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tart

It wasn’t that I didn’t like ‘The Goldfinch’; at times I adored it, wallowing in the long descriptive passages, caught up in the general premise. However, it was just TOO long and verbose. I’m tempted though to try and read another one of her books, particularly ‘The Secret History’. Once again the description is enticing but I’m torn. 

‘Under the influence of their charismatic Classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality, their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.’

What do you think? Has anyone read this? Should I give it a go? 

6. What book have you yet to read because you aren’t in the mood?

the girl

‘The Girl with all the Gifts’ by M. R. Carey

This book was a Christmas present and one I do want to read, that I keep meaning to read but somehow the moment is never quite right. Not one for night times, not one for sunny happy days, not one for low depressed days. Hmm…still I’m intrigued though. 

‘Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.’

7. What book have you yet to read because it is humongous?

penguin

‘The Penguin Book of the British Short Story. Volume 1’ edited by Philip Hensher.

Having seen the editor of this short story collection talk in November 2015 at the Royal Society of Literature I truly meant to have read this earlier. Again it was a present and I can’t wait to read the stories contained within but its size has caused certain reservations within me. Not the 702 pages, rather its actual tome and tomb-like weight – having been spoilt with the light weight of a kindle and paperbacks it will be annoying to not be able to hold it with one hand, not to be able to snuggle up and be cosy to read in the evenings. However, I will tackle this soon…I mean it. Then there is always volume two to put on my Christmas list. I had to laugh when reading Philip Hensher’s comment in the General Introduction when he writes that: ‘This anthology could easily have become twice as long as it is’. Was that a threat?!

8. What book have you yet to read because it was a cover buy with bad reviews?

None!

9. Which book on your TBR is the most intimidating to you?

mason

‘Mason & Dixon’ by Thomas Pynchon

This book has been on my TBR since forever, quietly disappearing to the bookcase before finding its way back onto my bedside table. The book is the most intimidating I’ve ever come across. I just about get the first few pages but its style is so dense and complex; yet I feel I should be better than this. I read ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ by Pynchon as a student and was hooked. I want to do this one justice and might persevere – or maybe not. 

Here’s a taster for you of the first sentence:

‘Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr’d the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware,— the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall, a stocking’d-foot Descent made upon the great Kitchen, in a purposeful Dither since Morning, punctuated by the ringing Lids of various Boilers and Stewing-Pots, fragrant with Pie-Spices, peel’d Fruits, Suet, heated Sugar,— the Children, having all upon the Fly, among rhythmic slaps of Batter and Spoon, coax’d and stolen what they might, proceed, as upon each afternoon all this snowy Advent, to a comfortable Room at the rear of the House, years since given over to their carefree Assaults.’

I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection; as always I would love to hear from you about some of these selections or about some of your own Intimidating TBRs. If you’re tempted, please do the Tag!

A Midwife’s Revolt: A Book Review

sleeping women

Painting: Courtesy of B.Haynie

Recently I had the opportunity to join NetGalley, an online book reviewing organisation.  Publishers send in their books months prior to release and ‘professional readers’ are then asked to review the book. The feedback and recommendations are considered highly valuable to the publishers and future readers alike.

badge_proreaderI will be reviewing one new book here on my blog on a monthly basis – do look out for them and hope you enjoy the reviews.

The Midwife’s Revolt  by  Jodi Daynard

cover60583-mediumWithin the first few sentences, this book immediately and powerfully transported me to the life of women left behind home during the American Revolution.

The story follows newly-wed Lizzie Bolyston as she sets up home on a farm on the outskirts of a new town South of Boston.

Related in Lizzie’s voice the reader quickly enters the head and heart of this strong young lady as she faces increasingly tougher struggles.

Firstly grief blindsides her but with help of friends she slowly overcomes both this and then the prejudice to what is regarded as her ‘witch’ like skills of healing and midwifery. She is exceptional in both and gradually, the ‘medical arts’ taught to her by her mother, help provide a living for Lizzie whilst saving dozens of lives.

As the war deepens Lizzie finds herself embroiled in political intrigue centred around her close friend Abigail Adams, the wife of the future Second President of America. For a while Lizzie even finds herself attempting to disguise herself as a man during her espionage escapades. After all, the book starts with the sentence: ‘My father once told me I had the mind of a man.’

However this is not a traditional thriller as parallel to the assassinations and treachery runs various strands of the romantic nature.

Lizzie finds herself courted by a man, Mr Cleverly- but can she trust him? Equally she is attracted to another, Thomas Miller – yet again she is faced with the same dilemma of those unstable times – is he trustworthy?

The actions of her servant and close friend Martha also raises further doubts as to faithfulness and friendship. This suspicion causes great heart-ache for both women. Life for them all is never simple nor straight forward and nothing is quite what it seems.

I must make a quick mention to another powerful being in the book, whose existence is still etched on my brain – the wonderful and faithful horse, ‘Star’, her husband’s beloved animal. Life is never fair, Star!

Jodi Daynard’s writing is fluid throughout and its authentic contemporary feel never wavers. At times I have to remind myself this was actually a work of fiction and not a factual story.

The harsh and bleak life is brilliantly rendered, so raw I suffered with the women through their troubles and the winters of hunger. How I celebrated with them as they ate their far too rare servings of warm apple pie!

Their struggles with the farm are graphically related and whilst celebrating feminism and its strength, I rejoiced when they received the occasional help from a man with some of the hard graft.

The book climaxes with a dramatic battle on their very doorstep where the battles of the heart are reconciled and the future of America is more secured.

Although I approached this book with trepidation – the time period alone of the American Revolution  filled me with fear – I can honestly say there is never a boring moment in the book.

It has a  strong pace throughout, the characters, whether good or evil,  are vividly portrayed and the true grit and courage of the women shine through.

This is truly a gem of a book. Do read it now and escape into the past!

Publishers: Lake Union Publishing

Release date: 7th April 2015

N E W S F L A S H      N E W S F L A S H    N E W S F L A S H

I just found out that I am now on the short list on the Ink Tears Short Story Competition 2014.

Yes, I am thrilled to have reached this far.

Winners will be announced end of this month.

“From the eyes to the river
From the river to the sea
From the sea to darkening clouds
From the sky back down to me
Follow my tears…”
by Eddie Reader, singer/songwriter