Tag Archives: Fiction

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

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Blurb:
Set again in the Alaskan landscape that she bought to stunningly vivid life in The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey’s second novel is a breathtaking story of discovery and adventure, set at the end of the nineteenth century, and of a marriage tested by a closely held secret.

Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska’s hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its huge reserves of gold to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy.

For Forrester, the decision to accept this mission is even more difficult, as he is only recently married to Sophie, the wife he had perhaps never expected to find. Sophie is pregnant with their first child, and does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband embarks upon the journey of a lifetime. She has genuine cause to worry about her pregnancy, and it is with deep uncertainty about what their future holds that she and her husband part.

A story shot through with a darker but potent strand of the magic that illuminated The Snow Child, and with the sweep and insight that characterizes Rose Tremain’s The Colour, this novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Eowyn Ivey singles her out as a major literary talent

My Review:

Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, “The Snow Child” captivated me, so when I had the opportunity to buy her second offering, “To the Bright Edge of the World”, I did so with great enthusiasm and anticipation. I was not disappointed!
The story of Colonel Allen Forrester’s exploration of the Alaskan interior, following the course of the Wolverine River, is an exciting and intense tale of wonder, exhilaration and extreme hardship. The author brings the spectacular and treacherous landscape to life and offers insights into the lives and traditions of the native tribes of the region.
Hand in hand with the story of the Colonel and his small, intrepid group, is the heart rending account of Sophie Forrester’s months without her husband’s company. She is prevented from taking any part in the expedition and has to remain in the Vancouver Barracks, often without knowledge of her husband’s whereabouts and wellbeing. During this time, which brings her much heart ache, she shows us what a brave and resilient woman she is, as she develops an interest in the fairly new art of photography.
There is another aspect of the novel, which is right up to date. An ancestor of the Forresters wishes to donate the manuscripts left by Allen and Sophie Forrester to an Alaskan museum. This story is told through a series of letters between Walter Forrester and Joshua Sloan, the curator of the museum.
In fact, the whole book consists of diary entries, letters, newspaper cuttings and photographs. This was a style of storytelling that I found very effective. The Forresters came to life in their words and I found myself caring deeply about them. Even the more minor characters were real to me. This is style that Eowyn Ivey absolutely owned!
There is a mystical, supernatural aspect to the novel that I found intriguing. As Colonel Forrester and his team ventured into the interior, they came across some strange “happenings”. These were based on the myths and beliefs of the natives, developed to help them understand their environment. So, we are to ask: Were the “happenings” real? Or did the explorers superimpose the myths that they had heard onto their own experiences? Whatever, the novel was enhanced by their inclusion.
I thought this was a wonderful book and it is one that I will treasure. Thank you, Eowyn Ivey!

Meet the Author:
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Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, “The Snow Child”, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and an international bestseller. Her newest novel “To the Bright Edge of the World” will be released August 2, 2016. Eowyn was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters.

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The Vegetarian by Han Kang

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My review:
The Vegetarian by Han Kang is one of the most unusual books that I’ve read for a long time. Set in Korea, it tells the story of a young woman’s decision to become a vegetarian and the consequences of that decision for her and her family.
Yeong-hye decides to turn from eating meat following a horrific dream and the reawakening of memories from her childhood. Her husband, who narrates the first part of the book, cannot understand what has come over his ordinary little wife; Yeong-hye distances herself from him and her family as lack of empathy and antagonism grow.
The second part of the book is told from the point of view of Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law. He is an artist, whose obsession with an idea and with a mark on his sister-in-law’s body lead to catastrophic outcomes for the whole family.
Yeong-hye’s sister plays a major role in the final section of the book. She questions herself about her reactions to the past and how she could have protected her sister.
However, the book was so much more than the above synopsis.I think it describe the chaos which lurks under the surface of many of our lives, waiting for a trigger to set it free from the constraints that society and we ourselves put upon it. It deals with abuse, obsession and guilt and the effects that these can have on the mind. Unless the ensuing turmoil is dealt with, with understanding, love and acceptance, catastrophe is never far away.
This is a book which will linger long in my mind.The writing is beautifully poetic in places, in contrast with much of the subject matter.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

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The Blurb:

We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

“The Ask and the Answer” is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy.

My Review:

As I suspected, I liked “The Ask and the Answer” by Patrick Ness more than the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy – and I came to like Todd Hewitt a good deal more in this novel.

When Todd carries a badly wounded Viola into Haven, they expect that their troubles will be over; that their questions will be answered; that Viola will be able to contact “her people” – colonists who are approaching the world of “Noise”. However, the young protagonists find something completely different to their expectations.

Todd and Viola are forced to separate and throughout the unfolding of this violent and often heartbreaking story, they rarely meet. However, the ties that bind them are extremely strong and their faith and trust in each other brings real life to this story. They meet many devious characters for whom power is the guiding light and Todd has to develop ways of dealing with awful situations and actions in which he had to participate.

In the first book of the trilogy, I was irritated by Todd, but the way his character developed in “The Ask and the Answer” provided much to like and admire. Although some of the things he had to do were despicable, he tried to show compassion. Viola continued to be a strong young woman, growing in strength even in the face of betrayal.

This book was written from the points of view of both Todd and Viola – I think this worked very well and helped to broaden the scope of the story. Their voices are quite different and there was no confusion for me, just added enjoyment. I have admired the work of Patrick Ness for a while now and have no reason to change my views. I think he is an extremely skillful, thoughtful writer and although the Chaos Walking trilogy is aimed at young adults, the questions that we are asked to ponder are applicable at any age.

Needless to say, I have now made a good start on the third book: “Monsters of Men”

In the Eyes of an Angel by Kimberly Livingston -review and author interview.

Today, it is my pleasure to welcome author, Kimberly Livingston to my blog.

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Blurb:

Camille Ryan is in her final year at Southern State University. Working as a bartender in a local establishment in order to support herself, she knows from her mother’s experience with her alcoholic father not to depend on anyone. That is until travelling businessman Rick Pantanelli decides to visit her bar. He is a handsome, well-off, successful professional and her senior by a full 17 years.

Camille is used to doing everything she is expected to do. But when she meets Rick she is swept away by his good looks, his charm and his ability to take care of her. Rick is used to getting what he wants. But when he meets Camille he is swept away by her beauty and her inner fragility. He finds himself believing he can take care of her. Is this belief strong enough to make him a better man?

My Review:

“In the Eyes of an Angel” by Kimberly Livingston traces the story of Camille Ryan’s life during her last few months at university and her first steps into the world of work.

Our first meeting with Camille finds her working as a barmaid, in an attempt to help pay her bills as she completes her studies. Quickly, we gain the impression of a gentle, decent young woman, but one who has little sense of her own worth. Her family life has been lacking in security – her father is an alcoholic; her mother, a woman who appears to find it hard to show emotion.

Camille is a beautiful young woman and attracts the attention of business man, Rick Pantanelli. The attraction is mutual and a relationship develops between them. However, is this a match made in heaven? Time and circumstances will tell. To say more about the plot would spoil the story for other readers, so I shall leave it there!

What I really enjoyed about this novel was the way in which Camille’s self-confidence grew, alongside her belief that she was worth knowing and had a purpose in life. She had always worked hard, but had lacked the support and time to nurture her sense of self. This was a rocky road for her to travel, and it held my interest throughout. I was also interested in Rick’s character – a successful man, but not very likeable, in my opinion.

I have to admit that I don’t read many romance novels, but I did enjoy this one and look forward to reading the promised follow-up.

 
 Interview with Kimberly Livingston:
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 Hello Kimberly. I’m delighted to welcome you to my blog today. Would you like to tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you for having me.  What an honor! I am from Colorado, which, for your UK readers, is in the western half of the United States near the Rocky Mountains. I am a Disney FANATIC (my homage to Disneyland is in my novel On a Run) and am so excited to be spending my 50th birthday there in a few weeks!!! I was raised on Happily Ever After stories, even though I realize, those don’t always turn out like the main hero/heroine expected. I am married to my own Prince Charming (I got lucky!) who is a golf fanatic so we spend a lot of time outdoors, and hopefully will make it to the UK to do some golfing before too long!

It would be great if you could come over to the UK!

 Q. Have you always been an author?

A. That’s an interesting question. I’d say….. Yes. I have made up stories and written them down for as long as I can remember. I remember starting my first “novel” back in elementary school. I actually might still have a copy! That novel got to be about a page and a half long, but the concept was there. Who knows, I might finish that novel someday.

Q. Do you have a set routine when you are writing?  

A. I wish! I am an author who still has a day job so my writing time tends to be catch as catch can. I can edit with any distraction going on, but to write I need to have my own head space. Doesn’t matter when, day or night, but once I get started I can write for hours on end. I have been known to write while sitting lake side while my husband fishes, sitting with my laptop in bed all day, or stopping mid walk or run to voice-write a scene I’d been mulling over into my phone.

Q. Are there any authors that have influenced you? What have you admired about their work?

A. I’d say all authors influence me, but the author that I am most similar to style wise is probably Susan Wiggs. I am especially awed by authors who can come up with complex worlds or situations so different from our own. Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus is one example. I wish I were that creative and skilled! I also have loved Barbara Kingsolver’s work. Both of those authors paint such vivid characters and settings. However, as I often read my own genre that gives me comfort to know that a good novel doesn’t have to be long or complex. It just needs to be a good story with relatable characters (and hopefully a happy ending!).

 I loved “The Night Circus” but have yet to read any of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels. I’ll have to remedy that!

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Q.I enjoyed reading “In the Eyes of an Angel.” How long did it take you to write it? Did you follow a plan or did the plot and characters evolve as you were writing?

A.Phew! I am so happy you enjoyed it. That is the hardest part about publishing. When I write I can love my work, but the moment I put it “out there” it becomes very vulnerable. I wrote In the Eyes of an Angel over about a 6 month period. I was on a leave of absence at the time, so I was able to work on it fairly consistently. I rarely have a “plan” when I write. Okay, I never have a plan.  Typically I have a character or a situation in mind and then my imagination just takes over and the novel writes itself. Sometimes I don’t even have the character or situation in mind to start, I just start daydreaming and the stories emerge.

 

Q. The characters in the book were very “real”. Were they based on anyone you know or figments of your imagination?

A.What a great compliment! My characters are figments of my imagination, though I may see a person or have a memory that sparks a story in my head. One observation may begin the whole story telling process. For In the Eyes of an Angel I used the memory of a bar I worked at when I was in college as the backdrop, but there was no Camille or Rick, they just developed themselves. Often when I am writing I “become” the character, which helps I think in capturing the inner person. The characters become very real to me, so it is nice that that translates to my readers.

 
Q.Can you tell us a little about what you are hoping to have published in the future?

A.I just finished the follow up novel to In the Eyes of an Angel. I felt like one of the characters was truly misunderstood in that book so I wanted to tell the rest of their story. Hence, the title of my new novel is “Book by Another Cover”. I am extremely happy with how it all works out (remember, I never know how a book will resolve itself)! I am currently working on the editing process and developing a cover for it, then it will be up on Amazon Kindle for purchase!

 

Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog. It’s been a pleasure to chat to you and learn a little more about you and your work.

Thank you again for having me on your blog! If you or any of your readers have any follow up questions or would just like to connect they can find me at
kimberlylivingstonnovels. weebly.com
twitter.com/KLnovels
facebook.com/ kimberlylivingstonnovels

 

 

Another You by Jane Cable

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Jane Cable’s “Another You” has much to recommend it.

A contemporary romantic novel, with a mysterious twist, it is set in a beautiful part of England, mainly focusing on the area around Studland Bay in Dorset. I loved the author’s descriptions of this setting, having visited the region many times myself.

Against this backdrop, the story of Marie and her turbulent relationships unfolds. Marie and her estranged husband, Stephen own and run a pub, with the help of their son, Jude, and two other employees.  To escape the arguments with Stephen, Marie often walks along the cliff tops and this is when she meets an attractive American named Corbin.  He is a soldier and she assumes he is staying in the area for a commemoration and re-enactment event concerning the Second World War.

After a while, Corbin seems to disappear from the area, but a different American soldier appears on the scene. Marie finds Paxton very attractive and they embark on an affair.  This is only one strand of this novel, which also looks at the important decisions that Jude has to make about the direction he wants his life to take.

There is much more to the plot than I’ve written about here, but to reveal more would spoil the book for future readers.

I enjoy Jane Cable’s writing very much. There is a flow to her work which makes it such a pleasure to read.  In “Another You” and her  previous novels, she shows such a talent for setting the scene, not by lengthy description, but using well-chosen words. There is also the element of “other-worldly” mystery that I enjoy immensely.  I also like the realistic depiction of the characters and their relationships – Marie’s stressful life with an unpleasant estranged husband and a son, about to take steps into the unknown, were authentic and rang true for me.

All in all, a very good, satisfying read! 

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“Garden Spells” is a light read, with a magical aspect to it. Set in North Carolina, it tells the story of the Waverley family and their relationships. They are all “different”, with gifts that are key aspects of the story. Another important “character” in the story is the Waverley garden, containing the flowers used by Claire Waverley in her cooking and the apple tree, which plays an important role throughout the tale.

I enjoyed suspending belief for a while as I read Sarah Addison Allen‘s magical story. Although on a more serious note, I would agree with one of the conclusions that we are led to, towards the end of the book – that we really should not jump to conclusions about a person’s actions, unless we have all the facts.

I would recommend this to anyone who feels like an antidote to heavier tomes or as an escape from the harsh realities of life.

About the Author:

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New York Times Bestselling novelist Sarah Addison Allen brings the full flavour of her southern upbringing to bear on her fiction — a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town sensibility.

Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Allen grew up with a love of books and an appreciation of good food (she credits her journalist father for the former and her mother, a fabulous cook, for the latter). In college, she majored in literature — because, as she puts it, “I thought it was amazing that I could get a diploma just for reading fiction. It was like being able to major in eating chocolate.”

After graduation, Allen began writing seriously. Her big break occurred in 2007 with the publication of her first mainstream novel, Garden Spells, a modern-day fairy tale about an enchanted apple tree and the family of North Carolina women who tend it. Booklist called Allen’s accomplished debut “spellbindingly charming.” The novel became a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection, and then a New York Times Bestseller.

Allen continues to serve heaping helpings of the fantastic and the familiar in fiction she describes as “Southern-fried magic realism.” Clearly, it’s a recipe readers are happy to eat up as fast as she can dish it out.

Her published books to date are: Garden Spells (2007), The Sugar Queen (2008), The Girl Who Chased the Moon (2010), The Peach Keeper (2011) and Lost Lake (2014) and First Frost (2015).