All posts by FlorenceT

I am a Child of the Universe fulfilling many roles on a journey of living a meaningful and purposeful life. I am Woman embracing my world, finding my voice!

@FTThum #BookReview ‘The Scent of You’ by Maggie Alderson

For me who’s struggling to see how five months of 2017 is nearly over, I took a mental break and reached for “The Scent of You”.

 

Title:          The Scent of You
Author:        Maggie Alderson
Publishers:     Harper Collins
Publication date:  1 April 2017
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Website:        maggiealderson.com
Pages:             512
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary; ChickLit

 

 

What’s it about?

“The Scent of You” is Australian author Maggie Alderson’s 10th novel. It is a story of loyalty and of letting go, of following your heart or your head, and the conflicts within.

Hippolyta Masterton-Mackay, Polly to her friends, is a mother to Lucas and Clemmie, both of whom are away at university. She is also a successful blogger, an initial hobby which is now work, and a yoga teacher.

Polly is daughter to Daphne, a glamorous model at 85 years of age and living in a posh retirement home. Though she was quite emotionally absent from Polly in her younger days, Daphne now seems to have great insights into the dilemma her daughter is facing. The dilemma – Polly’s husband has vanished after declaring his need for space. What is Polly to do?

It is through her perfume blog in which she wrote of how scents evoked memories, and vice versa, which causes her to chance upon Guy, a gifted perfumer making a break in the world of scents. Guy quickly became one of her inner circle, but could there be more?

Around the same time, Polly reconnects with an old school friend, Edward, with whom she had shared an innocent kiss on the beach. Chum, a nickname for Edward, visits his stepfather at the same retirement home in which Daphne resides. And before long, Polly and Chum are taking long walks in the country, familiar and comfortable with each other’s company. Is familiarity a better choice than the excitement of Guy?

As Polly grapples with her bewildering situation of lost husband and emerging relationship, she is supported by her yoga students, Shirlee in particular.

What will Polly do? Will Polly take this opportunity to realise who she wants to be?

Would I recommend it?

“The Scent of You” is light and entertaining, a worthy beach holiday read. Or read anywhere really.

This book is filled with warm characters, lovable and flawed. Pick it up and enjoy!

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3/5
Made Me Think:                   2/5
Overall enjoyment:               3.5/5
Readability:                           3.5/5
Recommended:                     3/5
Overall Rating:                  3/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 11.18
 
 Booktopia  Ebook  AUD 14.99
 Paperback  AUD 25.50

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘From a Paris Balcony’ by Ella Carey

My birthday isn’t here yet, but I have just finished “From a Paris Balcony”, a gift from a dear friend. Here’s what I think of it.

Title:          From a Paris Balcony
Author:        Ella Carey
Publishers:     Lake Union Publishing  (October 11, 2016)
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Website:         www.ellacarey.com
Pages:             290
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary

 

What’s it about?

“From a Paris Balcony” tells the stories of two women from two different centuries, both lost. Louisa Duval (nee West) longed for freedom and independence in conservative 19th century Europe, while Sarah West longed for the husband and family she would now not have.

They are bound by a devastating death, Louisa’s through suicide. To escape the pain in her life, she fled to Paris on a personal mission to discover the story of Louisa, her great great-aunt’s death after discovering a letter written to Louisa’s husband, Henry from one of Belle Epoque Paris’ notorious courtesan, Marthe de Florian. Guided by her instinct, Sarah searched for answers as her path crosses that of Laurent Chartier, an acclaimed artist who seems to be on his own private journey.

Will Sarah find the answers she is searching for? Did Louisa?

The women’s lives ran parallel in their attachment to their ideals and the future they wanted. Will they dare to embrace the lives they have, instead of the lives they wish?

Other than the romance, “From a Paris Balcony” highlights the conflict and hypocrisy of morality, class and norms in late 19th century Europe, particularly Paris and London. It also brings the issue of gender inequality to the fore.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, and enjoy it. There are whimsical and reflective elements to this book, and few could escape the romanticism of the City of Light.

Now I wish I was back there 😉 !

 

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:               3.5/5
Readability:                           3/5
Recommended:                     3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  3/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 4.99
  Paperback USD 6.32

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent

A book which I earmarked to read for some time. Finally, I did.

burial-ritesTitle:          Burial Rites
Author:        Hannah Kent
Publishers:     Back Bay Books, April 2014
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Pages:             311
Genre:           Fiction – Historical, Literary Fiction

What’s it about?

This heartbreaking story of a woman’s life journey in early 19th century Iceland gripped me from page one.

Burial Rites is a fictionalised story of a true event – In 1828, an Icelandic servant named Agnes Magnúsdóttir was convicted of killing her employer and another man, then burning their bodies. Hannah Kent’s take, as she explained, was “to supply a more ambiguous portrayal” of a woman who has been seen as a “witch, stirring up murder”.

There is no happy ending, and it is no surprise. But this book is not about finding out what happens at the end, but a study of Anna Magnúsdóttir’s life leading to her execution.

The Icelandic setting of unrelenting cold and unforgiving rocky terrain, is perfect backdrop to this story of poverty and a woman’s place within it. A young girl growing up without love and care, spurned and betrayed by those she depended on, Anna’s shame is writ large in her name, and by all that followed her survival.

There was no prison in Iceland then. So when Anna was convicted of murder, she is sent to live with District Officer Jon Jonsson; his ailing wife, Margret; and their two daughters to await her execution. A young clergy, Assistant Reverend Thorvardur Jonsson (‘Toti’) is sent to Anna as a spiritual guide to prepare her for the fateful day.

Reverend Toti initially did not understand the story Anna told, listening through his naïve and blinkered view of the world. But he finally did. And as Anna’s story unfolds, I the reader am confronted by questions.

What makes a person culpable for her actions?

What does it mean to undertake voluntary act? Who is responsible?

How much of our stories are constructed by what was told about us?

How much of us is truly seen and understood?

Would I recommend it?

A solid account. An engaging story. Highly recommended.

 

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:               4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  3.5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 7.47
  Paperback USD 6.00
 Bookdepository  Paperback  AUD 18.00

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘The Dinner’ by Herman Koch

Interesting premise, as I read the ‘blurb’ on the back cover. So here goes.

the-dinnerTitle:          The Dinner
Author:        Herman Koch
Translator:    Sam Garrett
Publishers:     Atlantic Books, UK (August 2012)
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Pages:             320
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary; Literary Fiction

What’s it about?

‘The Dinner’ is Dutch author, Herman Koch’s 2nd book published in 2009 and translated to English in 2012. It has been adapted for film (US), to be released in 2017 starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. I for one will be watching it. Why? Because the book is intriguing, and I do want to see if it has been translated well to screen and how the characters are portrayed in the film.

The plot appears simple. Two couples – brothers and their wives – meet at an upmarket restaurant for dinner. There is an issue about their children that must be discussed, but obviously such a difficult topic to speak of that they miserably avoided it through 2 courses and various interruptions.

So what is this “important matter” that must be discussed and resolved?

Internal monologue of Paul Lohman, the protagonist, offers readers insight into the psychological state of a younger sibling, never quite living up to a successful older brother, with a chip on his shoulder and repressed anger.  And through his lens, there is the arrogant older brother, Serge, the defiant yet helpless sister-in-law, Babette; and his loving and supportive wife, Claire who is most importantly his ally as against the other couple.

This story ultimately is about what people, and parents, will believe to protect their own psyche and as a defence to love. It provides a slice of the human condition – how we lie to ourselves and what we do when our very existence, as we know it, is threatened.

The story is told in a pace causing annoyance was necessary; the discomfort and unpleasantness evoked in me is testament of how well-written this book is, and portending the reluctance of the characters to name and acknowledge the “important matter” – the almost calm and matter-of-fact manner which belies the undercurrents of tension, fear and malice.

What are their motivations? Or their responsibilities?

Does it matter if the desired outcome is achieved?

How will it end for everyone concerned?

Would I recommend it?

An intriguing book definitely worth spending time on.

 

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:               4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  3.5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 8.47
  Paperback USD 8.92
 Bookdepository  Paperback  A$11.10

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘Grind’ by Edward Vukovic

When approached by Vukovic for an honest review, I could not refuse as I am an avid coffee drinker. The book cover is enticing, and in itself, pip my curiosity. Coffee grind reading…?

grind-coverTitle:          Grind
Author:        Edward Vukovic
Publishers:     CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 2, 2016)
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Website:         www.edwardvukovic.com
Pages:             398
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary

What’s it about?

The story is a microcosm of the world at large, bound by the aromatic substance, coffee.  This is an entirely enjoyable and intelligent book, weaving multi-faceted characters through each other’s lives culminating in a powerful resolution.

We have Ziva, a young migrant woman, intelligent and trapped in a world of poverty. Infused with a talent for coffee-grind reading, she lives by her heightened ‘instinctive’ sense.

There is Simon, an angry direction-less man feeling victimised by life and its injustices; the only valuable thing in his life that which he thought could not be taken from him – his special coffee.

And Isaac, pub owner and a man atoning for his sins as he only knows how – the daily overcoming of the temptation of a former vice.

What of Michel, a homeless man by choice, oddly noble man avoiding his past and seeking in his own way to make amends.

Danielle, the young girl with a mentally ill father, bound by circumstances yet still hopeful for a better world.

Masterfully crafted by Vukovic, their lives intersect and will be forever changed, each character finding redemption.

I cannot help but associate the title ‘Grind’ with a different meaning, the grind that is life for the characters, each with a burden to bear. Will it lighten, I wonder…?

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely. ‘Grind’ draws the reader into the lives of its characters, reminding us that we all have our privates selves, that it is a priilege to be let into that private world.  We are the same – doing the best we can in our world – no matter the texture of our story; and interconnected – our actions have impact on others .

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think:                   3.5/5
Overall enjoyment:               4.5/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     4/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 2.95
  Hardback USD 18.95

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘Santa and the Christmas Dragon’ by Amanda Roberts

With Christmas round the bend, it is a good time to review this children’s book.

santaTitle:          Santa and the Christmas Dragon
Author:          Amanda Roberts
Illustrator:   Cherith Vaughan
Translator:   Yaqian Gong
Publishers:     Two Americans in China Press (2016)
Format:          Hardcover
Website:         www.twoamericansinchina.com
Pages:             32
Genre:            Fiction – Children, Picture-book

What’s it about?

This children picture book tells the story of how Santa got to China. It is bilingual – presented in English, Chinese characters and Mandarin pinyin.

I had expected an education on Chinese culture, and how both cultures perceive Christmas. Instead, this book seeks to cross cultural boundaries, to connect our humanity through common themes – in this instance, good boys and girls deserving of gifts, and how gifts are welcomed. It encourages cultural sensitivity and understanding. I so want to know what the Dragon and Santa learned of each other’s culture.

I wish the fonts were larger and less ‘curly’; legibility is worth noting given the age of children to which it seems to target. The Chinese translation is appropriately lengthier to fit the rhythm of the Chinese language, its tone familiar to Chinese readers.

There are a few discrepancies, perhaps only to adult readers like myself. I will not list them, as this is a book for the young and their imagination. I see no need to taint it.

Would I recommend it?

Overall, an entertaining read. This beautifully illustrated bilingual children’s book will delight young readers.

Ratings:
Overall Rating:                  3/5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘The Valley Where They Danced’ by Emory Jones

I was encouraged to read this book by  the local store owner at Tallulah Point Overlook, GA.  So glad I did.

Valley

Title:          The Valley Where They Danced
Author:          Emory Jones
Publishers:     Emory Jones LLC (2014)
Format:          Hardback
Website:         The Valley Where They Danced
Pages:             290
Genre:            Literary fiction

What’s it about?

The author, Emory Jones, is a local of this area of Northeast Georgia, USA which is the backdrop of this enchanting tale.

It is the early 20th century, shortly after the end of World War I. Dr Tom Garrison a newly licensed doctor travels from Macon, Georgia to be the local doctor in Clarksville, GA.  As he familiarizes himself to the town and its delightful characters, he meets the resourceful Lenore Conley. Even on the first time they meet, they know their destiny is sealed. But a sinister presence lurks. Will it pose a threat? What will become of Tom and Lenore, as their story masterfully told by Emory Jones, closes at Tallulah Gorge, GA.

The tale of the two lovebirds is woven into the tapestry of life and history of the Sautee Nacoochee valleys from the beginning of the hydro electricity dams being built to references to the new motorised vehicle and the aftermath of WWI for those fortunate to return home.  And let’s not forget the two legends of the Sautee and Nacoochee.  Will Tom and Lenore’s fate follow?

Would I recommend it?

A gripping tale amidst the rich historical context kept me glued to ‘The Valley Where They Danced’. How I wish I had read this book before I visited this part of Georgia.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:  4/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:               4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     4/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 9.03
  Hardback USD 26.95
Emory Jones LLC Hardback USD 26.95

~ FlorenceT

florence-2

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #bookreview ‘I Let You Go’ by Clare Mackintosh

I needed a book to read, and this Sunday Times bestseller was compared to ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Girl on the Train’ so how could I not?

I let you go

Title:          I Let You Go
Author:          Clare Mackintosh
Publishers:     Sphere, Hachette (2014)
Format:          Paperback
Website:         www.claremackintosh.com
Pages:             371
Genre:            Psychological Thriller, Fiction

What’s it about?

Jenna Gray’s world disintegrated when she lost her son, in a hit-and-run.

It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a bid to escape the memories and pain, Jenna ran away to the Welsh coast, initially keeping her identity a secret but gradually, as she re-discovered her old passion and talent and more, her life began to turn around.

But it was not to be, as her past returned to haunt her.

In the meantime, Detective Inspector Ray Steven was assigned to solve this hit-and-run case, only to find the mother of the victim missing, and encountering the world of web-shaming directed at Jenna as he experienced the tension between his career aspiration which demanded that he closed the investigation down and his moral conscience to solve this case. And all this on top of marital problems.

So how did the two worlds converge? This psychological thriller kept me guessing and truth be told, flipping back pages to ‘work it out’.

Would I recommend it?

Yes. An entertaining gripping read by the beach. Kept me up till I got to the twist end.

P/S Clare Mackintosh’s next book ‘I See You’ is due on 28 July 2016. Check it out here.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:               4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     4/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 9.08
  Paperback USD 6.05
Booktopia Paperback AUD 13.95
Bookdepository Paperback £7.99

 

~ FlorenceT

florence-2

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr

This is a Christmas gift which took me three months to read (yep, been extremely busy) and another four months to review…

all the light

Title:          All the Light We Cannot See
Author:          Anthony Doerr
Publishers:     Scribner, Simon & Schuster (2014)
Format:          Hardback
Website:         www.anthonydoerr.com
Pages:             530
Genre:            Literary fiction; Thriller

What’s it about?

This is a story of morality – of doing and not doing, of being and non-being – and science set in Germany and France during WWII. It tells of how the two protagonists’ lives intersect in the lead up to the German occupation of France.

I was introduced to Werner a 7-year old German boy gifted in science who lived in an orphanage with his sister, Jutta. Marie-Laure was 6 years, blind and much loved by her father, a locksmith and the keeper of keys at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. And there in the museum was hidden an accursed gem, which would be the thread running through both Werner and Marie-Laure’s lives.

From 7 to 18 years old where the story ends, Werner knew he had a calling, to repair and build radios. This brought him to the attention of the Nazis and subsequently sent to a school that produced elite cadre for the Third Reich. There, Werner’s friendship with his best friend Frederick was tested repeatedly as he experienced the conflict between his love for science and his love for his friend. Jutta’s voice rang as his conscience until he chose not to listen. Ultimately Werner’s fate was tied to the accursed gem, with which his commanding officer was obsessed.

During these years, Marie-Laure had a happy life deciphering puzzles her father built, and learning about her sightless world through the delightful miniatures her father had constructed. It was because of them that she managed to survive when she was brought to live with her great-uncle’s home in the town of Saint Malo, on the coast of Brittany after escaping Paris when her father was entrusted with the accursed gem. Her great-uncle, Etienne, a former soldier suffering from psychological distress, had been using his radio transmitter for the Resistance.

How do all these lives intersect? I suppose you can see the obvious connection, however there are many more. I will leave you to discover what they are.

For me, the only character that seems to be predominantly two dimensional is von Rumpel, Werner’s commanding officer. The  book’s approach to Nazism fell short of the realism that was conveyed throughout other parts of the book. The other secondary characters were fascinating and I almost wished they had their own words for their experiences.

Would I recommend it?

‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is thriller and literary fiction, rolled into one. A delightful book with detailed descriptions of the towns and well-presented characters – Marie-Laure more believable than Werner, nevertheless entirely absorbing.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think:                   3.5/5
Overall enjoyment:               4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     4/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 11.30
  Hardback USD 16.39
Booktopia Paperback AUD 39.25
Bookdepository Paperback £8.87

 

~ FlorenceT

florence-2

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

Fear of Dying by Erica Jong #bookreview by @FTThum

Fear of Dying

Title:                    Fear of Dying
Author:                Erica Jong
Publishers:        Canongate (29 October 2015)
Format:                Paperback
ISBN-10:             178211744X
ISBN-13:             978-1782117445
Website:             http://www.ericajong.com/fear-of-dying.htm
Pages:                   288
Genre:                 Adult Fiction; Women’s Fiction
 

What’s it about?

This book is further evidence of Erica Jong’s courage in tackling personal politics through fiction.  This poet and author of ‘Fear of Flying’ to ‘Fear of Fifty’ now tackles the issue of ageing and death and our very human reaction to fear of dying through the pursuit of sex.

Fear of Dying opens with an advertisement on Zipless.com – an internet sex site, by the protagonist, Vanessa Wonderman, which read in part,

“Happily married woman with extra erotic energy seeks happily married man to share same.”

Vanessa is a 60 year old woman exposed to deaths around her from the loss of her beloved father, to the process of losing her mother whom she admired and loved, to the shock of almost losing her husband. And her psychological response? To cling to life, to the symbol of life and vitality that is, sex – the “life force, the fire that goes from loins to navel, navel to heart, heart to brain”.

Vanessa is married to a man two decades older and impotent whom she loved yet found wanting, he met her needs yet she is unable to appreciate some of his ways, particularly the interference of his work.

Vanessa have always had the adoration of men, whom she in turn adored and flirted with and more. Ageing threatens her, as the first line in the book states, “I used to love the power I had over men” and later, “I hate, hate, hate getting older”.

Written in the first person, I encounter Vanessa’s mind in Fear of Dying as she experiences conflicted emotions and confusion. Vanessa does not profess to be the ‘good daughter’ or the ‘good mother’ or the ‘good wife’…quite the contrary. And it is the flawed aspects of Vanessa that makes this book entertaining and humorous. Her honesty is refreshing. It kept me turning the pages.

How does it end for Vanessa, the cynical somewhat jaded actor? You must discover this for yourself.

And if Fear of Dying is semiautobiographical then it is a testament that 60 year olds are still sexually passionate and not just in their minds.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, an intelligent and entertaining book that kept me wanting to know how it ends for Vanessa.

Ratings:

Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think:               3.5/5
Overall enjoyment:           4/5
Readability:                       3.5/5
Recommended:                 3.5/5
Overall Rating:                   3.5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD $4.44
  Paperback USD $15.99
Booktopia Paperback AUD $17.95
Bookdepository Paperback £12.23

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

 

Creatures of A Day by Irvin Yalom #BookReview by @FTThum

It is such sweet anticipation knowing a book by Irvin Yalom awaits me.

yalom

Title:                    Creatures of A Day and Other Tales of Psychotherapy
Author:                Irvin D Yalom
Publishers:        Piatkus (5 March 2015)
Format:                Paperback
ISBN-10:             0349407428
ISBN-13:             9780349407425
Website:             http://www.yalom.com/index.html
Pages:                   224
Genre:                 Literary Non-Fiction; Psychology
 

What’s it about?

Once again, Irvin D Yalom does not disappoint. On the contrary he proves (not that he needed to J) yet again his mastery in conveying the complexity of the human psyche into short stories designed to engage the imagination and to teach. For those who do not know, Yalom is an eminent existential psychotherapist and author. He is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Standford University who is cautious of the perils of diagnosis and pathology, rather preferring to delve into human psyche. At the age of 82 (when the book was written), Yalom’s curiosity and ‘work’ on himself lies with the reality of impending death.

In ‘Creatures of a Day’, Yalom explores through ten tales (of real cases) the existential theme of ‘death’ or ‘existential death’, and how we, no matter our age, experience and respond when confronted with our own mortality. There is no formula, no correct answer – just a deep appreciation for the complexities that is the human psyche. Yalom’s humility and candour shine in the short stories. Though a master therapist, Yalom does not shy away from owning his missteps in therapy sessions, nor his judgment, non-engagement and not-knowing. What is important, as he highlights in ‘Creatures of a Day’, is the therapeutic relationship between him and his clients, one that is authentic, honest and transparent. He demonstrates the transformative power of this healing relationship.

If there is one ‘flaw’ it is that ‘Creatures of a Day’ through Yalom’s exquisite storytelling makes the psychotherapeutic process seemed a ‘natural’ process and can be attempted with ease. Here is the paradox – the therapeutic process is hard work and difficult for the client and the therapist; it is never simple.

As Yalom states,

The patients in these stories deal with anxiety about death, about the loss of loved ones and the ultimate loss of oneself, about how to live a meaningful life, about coping with aging and diminished possibilities, about choice, about fundamental isolation.

Yet this book provides such an uplifting, hopeful perspective to our humanness and our capacity for growth.

Would I recommend it?

So would I recommend this book? A resounding ‘yes’.

And the book’s audience?

I will quote Yalom. “I write for those of you who have a keen interest in the human psyche and personal growth, for the many readers who will identify with the ageless existential crises … and for the individuals who contemplate entering therapy or are already in the midst of it.”

Savour the book not just its entertaining tales but take time to explore the nuanced interactions between Yalom and his patients.

 

Ratings:

Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think:               4.5/5
Overall enjoyment:           5/5
Readability:                       5/5
Recommended:                 5/5
Overall Rating:                   5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD $8.27
  Paperback USD $15.99
Booktopia Paperback AUD $23.80
Bookdepository Paperback £9.38

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

 

Interview with Anne Goodwin @annecdotist – Author of ‘Sugar and Snails’

I have the privilege of interviewing author, Anne Goodwin about her debut novel ‘Sugar and Snails’, of which I did a review here on LitWorldInterviews.

To cut a long story short, Anne thought it would be good idea for someone who is associated with psychology to review her book, and I couldn’t be happier to do so. Of course, after reading ‘Sugar and Snails’, I do have a few questions for Anne.

So here goes:

An interview with ‘Sugar and Snails’ author, Anne Goodwin

Anne, what an incredibly thought-provoking book. I guess readers will want to know how you come to conceive the idea/theme for ‘Sugar and Snails’?

Thank you, Florence. I’m not totally sure where the idea came from – I think these things can lurk in our subconscious for quite some time – but there seem to have been three strands, which I have written about in more detail elsewhere: taking almost half a lifetime to figure out my own difficult adolescence; an awareness that many competent professionals have hidden vulnerabilities; and the discovery, part way through a long overseas trip, that an administrative error had led to my travelling on a passport that had registered me as male.

Find out about Anne’s difficult adolescence here.
Look here for Anne’s take on the vulnerabilities we harbour.
And finally, Anne registered as a male? Look here for what she means.

Your bio states you worked as a clinical psychologist in the UK for some 25 years. What was your area of practice or expertise as a clinical psychologist? When and how did you come to study psychology? And with mathematics?

I specialised in working with adults with severe and enduring mental health problems, often psychosis (Diana’s methodology for researching adolescent decision-making actually comes from a study of psychosis). Many of those I worked with were in residential care, which sparked my interest in organisational dynamics, so I did some additional training in psychoanalytic approaches to organisational consultancy.

I went to university straight from school at eighteen without a clear sense of what I wanted to study. In Britain, you’re expected to specialise early on, but I hadn’t had much guidance. I began studying languages but, being rather shy, I struggled with the spoken side, but eventually found the right place for me in the combination of psychology and mathematics. I liked the fact that in the former “the answer” is always provisional, while in mathematics, if you follow the logical process, you get to the correct solution. I loved reviving these subjects for ‘Sugar and Snails’, making Diana a psychologist and her best friend, Venus, a mathematician.

While maths is conceptual, it is easy to assume there is ‘the’ answer. Perhaps that is where its similarities lay with psychology – we must remember the factors and variables involved in the psychological makeup of a person. It is indeed fascinating to compare the different approaches Venus and Diana have to problem solving, to life in general.

How has your work experience assisted in writing ‘Sugar and Snails’?

As a basic level, it gave me an insight into Diana’s job as well as her, somewhat disastrous, experience of the health service. Yet, when I first answered this question in a Q&A, I didn’t fully appreciate quite how much my professional background has helped. But, having returned to this question after the one on research (below), I realise that the capacity to empathise with lives very different to one’s own is second nature to anyone who has worked therapeutically, as it is to the experienced writer of fiction. Although I was nervous that insiders might doubt my character’s authenticity, my work experience gave me the confidence to give it a go.

I can appreciate this. You certainly haven’t inundated the book with psychological profiling of each of the characters. And to think I wasn’t the first to ask this of you? 🙂 Here is Anne’s interview with Carys Bray  on Blogger.

Next, how much research did you have to do for ‘Sugar and Snails’? What did you research?

 I probably didn’t do half as much as I ought to have done! There’s a “secret” page on my website that lists my main background reading on attachment, gender and adolescence, although some of this I would have read anyway. I had to check out some legal and medical detail regarding Diana’s situation, but mostly I proceeded on the basis of imagination and intuition. Then I was lucky to have experts-by-experience among my prepublication readers who I hope would have flagged had I got anything drastically wrong.

Well, I’d better check out that secret page 🙂

Are the locations in the book real places, and if so, which are familiar to you and why?

The contemporary strand is set in the city of Newcastle, where I went to university and lived for twenty years; I might have used poetic licence, but the backdrop to Diana’s adult life is very real. The small town where she grew up was imagined, but the country walk she recalls taking with her father is one I’ve trod frequently.

Check out Anne’s interview with Geoff le Pard regarding the country walk.

And why Egypt? Do I sense a certain personal ‘love affair’ with Egypt?

My research suggested Diana could have gone to Casablanca but, never having been there, I crossed my fingers and used a setting in another part of North Africa. While I enjoyed revisiting my memories of a month-long visit twenty years before, many of the Cairean scenes were cut from the final version, so I’m pleased my affection for the place still comes through.

Find out  here the scenes of Cairo which were cut from the book   A photograph Anne shares.

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I am intrigued by the nature of Diana’s relationship with Geraldine which isn’t exactly explained. Is it intentional? If not, what is it?

Mmm, I’m intrigued by your being intrigued, although another reviewer did comment she didn’t quite “get” it. I think their early childhood relationship is quite intense, as such friendships often are, with Geraldine initially the more “knowing” of the two, using the relationship to explore her own sexual and gender identity. When, at secondary school, she becomes more conscious of social norms, she distances herself from the “oddball”, but still enjoys having power over another child who’ll do anything for her. When they meet again as adults, Geraldine has moved on in a way that Diana hasn’t. I find that quite poignant.

It is indeed poignant, especially when I see how Geraldine is now leading a ‘normal’ internal life while Diana’s somewhat stuck. Yet the book also highlights to me how the world would see them in such a different light.

When did you begin writing ‘Sugar and Snails’? Describe the writing journey from beginning to getting it published – as well as getting the book to us, the readers.

I started it in 2008, filled with confidence after completing a long-distance walk, but it took many drafts to get it right, partly because I didn’t realise what a complex task I’d set myself, followed by two years to find and sign with a publisher (and, yes, I’m still waiting for a couple of agents who enthusiastically asked for the full manuscript to get back to me). So seven years from inception to publication, which felt inordinately long when I was in the thick of it, less so now I’m through to the other side.

When did you get the writing bug? Describe the circumstances which led you to first put pen to paper as a writer?

 I’ve written all my life but lacked the courage, early on, to consider myself a writer. Busy with my studies and career, fiction took a backseat until a complicated bereavement about twelve years ago forced me to take stock. I reduced my hours at work to have a day for writing and have never looked back.

Now this is an example to follow – at least one day a week 🙂

I note the contribution from book sales to Gendered Intelligence. What is your relationship with this organisation? Why do you support Gendered Intelligence?

As a social enterprise, Inspired Quill is committed to improving community well-being. Although a new venture, their pledge to give ten percent of profits from book sales to selected charities is part of that. Gendered Intelligence is the perfect fit for Sugar and Snails because Diana would have been saved a lot of grief had she been able to draw on the kind of support they offer young people who are gender variant today.

What message, if any, would you wish  ‘Sugar and Snails’ to convey regarding the important issues of gender and sexuality?

Be open to diverse ways of being human in yourself and others; I truly believe it will make the world a better place. But I think fear of difference is also part of being human and acknowledging our discomfort can be a step towards transforming it into empathy rather than hate. Fiction can help with this process by offering a safe space in which to be curious about difference.

Let’s end on a lighter note. Describe your writing spot and how it came about.

My writing space has extended over the years and I now have the luxury of not just an entire desk to myself, but a room I’m only intermittently obliged to share with my husband. We have a rather large house and I dread to think of what I’ll do with all my books if we ever downsize.

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What is your beverage of choice when writing? You may be as specific as you wish.

Because I use voice-activated software, I need to drink a lot to protect my throat. I tend to drink a variety of herbal teas throughout the day, often just a sprig of sage, lemon balm, mint, fennel or rosemary from the garden doused in boiling water. I also like very weak lapsang souchong with a slice of lime. You must be thirsty yourself after all these questions. Could I offer you a cup?

Most certainly. I drink green tea for its clear crisp flavour.  It’s a psychological trigger for me to relax, usually at the end of the day.  I need a strong coffee to wake me up in the morning.

Thank you, Anne for your time and sharing your writing with us.  I have thoroughtly enjoyed reading ‘Sugar and Snails’ . Wishing you the best in your writing endeavours, and a positive outcome as you wait to hear from publishers.

*******************************

My review of Anne’s book ‘Sugar and Snails’ is here.

Visit Anne on her website, annethology; or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Anne’s book ‘Sugar and Snails’ can be purchased here:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Booktopia Australia
Bookdepository
Inspired Quill
Barnes & Noble

Now there is no good reason not to go get a copy.  It’s a worthwhile read!

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

 

© 2015 LitWorldInterviews

Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin #BookReview by @FTThum

Sugar and Snails

Title:                     Sugar and Snails
Author:                Anne Goodwin
Publishers:         Inspired Quill (23 July 2015)
Format:                Paperback
ISBN-10:               1908600470
ISBN-13:               978-1908600479
Website:             http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/
Twitter:                @annecdotist
Pages:                   342
Genre:                 Contemporary Fiction, LGBT
 

What’s it about?

This is a story of a woman’s journey of self-discovery.

I am introduced to Diana through the narrative of the life she’s lived, so far filled with insecurities and fears. The story begins in the present day with a confronting scene of Diana self-harming as a result of, so it seems, her partner leaving. The vivid description of her bringing a knife to her arm, after many years of abstinence, caused me to put the book down and almost not returning to it. But I did, because I wanted to know more.

What happened in Cairo? Why is it significant? What is she hiding? Why? What? How? So many more questions asked as I followed Diana Dodsworth’s life journey…from a young kid to a professor of psychology at university.

Diana’s story weaves in and out of different pasts as she held the attention of the reader, slowly and steadily divulging the story of her life.  Goodwin has written real characters, not just in Diana but with each of the significant figures in Diana’s life – flawed, conflicted. As the reader, I can empathise with each of them. What are the motivations for parental love? How is one changed by childhood events? Is an adolescent capable of deciding her future? What is the value of friendship and love in shaping a life?

As a therapist, I would have loved to get greater insights and explore Diana’s psyche as she slowly comes to the realisation that she has held herself back and living in a time bubble, and that she is indeed alright. Not that it is indeed the case, or is it? I appreciate a psychological study however may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This said, my reading experience was not compromised in any way. There is enough to maintain my attention and interest. After a somewhat slow and for me, perplexing take by Goodwin in ‘jumping’ across time and events, the second half of the book provide resolutions which showed Goodwin’s skill in weaving all the threads into a coherent tapestry.

Goodwin has created an intriguing story of a person’s life, complex and filled with the confusions of a child, the pain of existence, of irrevocable decisions and the effects on the subsequent decades of her life.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely. Mesmerising, especially the second half of the book, thought-provoking and sensitively written.

If you enjoy reading real and flawed characters set in a  contemporary background with controversial issues (still!) to boot, this is the book for you (and your book club, if you belong to one).

Ratings:

Realistic Characterization:   3.5/5
Made Me Think:               4/5
Overall enjoyment:           4/5
Readability:                       4/5
Recommended:                 4/5
Overall Rating:                   4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 4.31
  Paperback USD 12.99
Booktopia Paperback AUD 38.95
Bookdepository Paperback €15.47

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

© 2015 LitWorldInterviews

 

Book review @FTThum : Voice of Innocence by @LindsayDetwiler

Enough said that after reading this book, my interest in Romance is rekindled, the book genre that is. 🙂

Voice of Innocence cover

Title:               Voice of Innocence
Author:          Lindsay Detwiler
Publishers:   Satin Romance, Melange Books LLC (2015)
Format:         Paperback
ISBN-10:        1680460595
ISBN-13:        9781680460599
Website:         http://lindsaydetwiler.com/
Twitter:          @LindsayDetwiler
Pages:             249
Genre:            Contemporary fiction – Romance

What’s it about?

This is a story of love lost and found, of second chances.

Emma and Corbin – teenage sweethearts, first loves. Corbin finally found someone who believed in and supported him, despite his somewhat cavalier attitude to life and the sadness that permeated it.  In Corbin, Emma experienced what it was to have someone truly see her, her ‘wildness’. Their love seemed impenetrable, that is until disaster struck on the eve of Corbin’s marriage proposal to Emma.

The lovers are separated by time and space yet they are never far from each other even as they moved on with their lives, or at least Emma appeared to have. When another twist of fate caused them to confront the reality of their love.

This is not YA romance. It is much more as I am taken from Emma’s and Corbin’s teen to mature years – their voices sounding through the years as they wrestle with the dilemmas of,

Does true love exist? Can one ever know for certain? Is it worth sacrificing a life for? Does one follow one’s heart or mind? Does one stay true to oneself yet betray another? Is it impulsive to abandon a happy comfortable life for a dream? Is it too late for second chances?

Ultimately, what price truth, peace or love?

Would I recommend it?

‘Voice of Innocence’ is a book with mature themes yet handled skilfully. Once began, it was hard to put down as I was hooked into discovering ‘why’.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as it moves from moments of fairytale-like happiness and joy to harsh realities and great despair. Detwiler’s deft hands in portraying characters with depth made connecting with them easy.

I wonder, will there be another book for Emma and Corbin? If there is, I most certainly will not miss it.

Highly recommended.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:   3.5/5
Made Me Think:                3.5/5
Overall enjoyment:           4/5
Readability:                        4/5
Recommended:                  4/5
Overall Rating:                   4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 4.55
  Paperback USD 13.12
Booktopia Paperback AUD 38.25
Bookdepository Paperback € 18.03

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

© 2015 LitWorldInterviews

Book review @FTThum : The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by @JoelDicker

Harry Quebert

Title:               The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair
Author:          Joel Dicker (translated to English by Sam Taylor)
Publishers:   MacLehose Press, London (2015)
Format:         Paperback
ISBN-10:        1848663269
ISBN-13:        9781848663268
Website:         http://joeldicker.com/
Twitter:          @JoelDicker
Pages:             624
Genre:            Fiction; Crime Mystery

What’s it about?

And if every writer had to limit his writing to his own experience, literature would be impoverished and would lose all its meaning. We’re allowed to write about anything that affects us. And no one can judge us for that. We’re writers because we do one thing differently, one thing that everyone around knows how to do: write. All the nuances reside there.              Harry Quebert

And so it is that Marcus Goldman seeks to write a particular story about his mentor and inspiration, Harry Quebert.

Marcus Goldman is a high achieving and competitive writer, who has returned to see his mentor Harry Quebert in the quiet seaside town of Somerset, New Hampshire as the deadline for his second book looms. He is experiencing a severe case of writer’s block in the wake of his first highly acclaimed book.

It was while visiting Harry that the body of Nola, a 15 year old girl lost for some 30 years, was uncovered in the backyard of Harry’s house. As things unravel, stories involving Harry, Nola and the many characters in the town came to light as Marcus was compelled to investigate. There are twists to the story at every turn so don’t get comfortable. 🙂

Beyond the murder mystery/thriller (it is indeed difficult to slot this book into a particular genre), this book is also about the relationship between Harry and Marcus, the bonds they forged and the meaning of trust and loyalty. I can’t help being a vicarious mentee to Harry!

Don’t write in order to be read, write in order to be heard.     Harry Quebert

This is also a romance novel, documenting a love story between two unlikely characters, a story of love and sacrifice that is rather unexpected, and makes the reader (moi) question the usual conceptions of love, age and romance.

What she felt for him was something I had never felt before…and it was at that moment that I realized…that I had probably never been in love. That lots of people have never been in love. That they make do with good intentions; that they hide away in the comfort of a crummy existence and shy away from that amazing feeling that is probably the only thing that justifies being alive.                     Robert Quinn

The conclusion was a little disappointing to me in that, after the twists and turns, it wrapped up neatly. Don’t get me wrong, it wrapped up well, the resolutions to a complex plot and multiple timelines are well executed but I was expecting one final twist but alas, no.

Would I recommend it?

This is a compelling book, a page turner expertly told with an engaging voice of Swiss writer Joel Dicker and translated seamlessly into English by Sam Taylor. It is a book which takes you into the life (and thoughts and emotions) of the characters, and you will lose yourself in that world.

There is dry wit and humor in the dialogue, a simplicity to the narrative which makes this book an entertaining easy read.

Highly recommended.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:   3.5/5
Made Me Think:                4/5
Overall enjoyment:           4/5
Readability:                        4/5
Recommended:                  4/5
Overall Rating:                   4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 14.74
  Paperback USD 21.49
Booktopia Paperback AUD 16.75
Bookdepository Paperback € 14.58

 

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

 

 

 

© 2015 LitWorldInterviews

Book review @FTThum : Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

Well, it has an interesting title, don’t you think? Provocative, really.

Perv

Title:                Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us
Author:          Jesse Bering
Publishers:   Penguin Random House, UK(2015)
Format:         Paperback
ISBN-10:        0374230897
ISBN-13:        978-0374230890
Website:         http://www.jessebering.com/
Twitter:          @JesseBering
Pages:             333
Genre:            Non-fiction; Psychology

What’s it about?

Jesse Bering is a former director at the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University Belfast and also a former professor of psychology at University of Arkansas.

The book begins with the characterization of sexual deviance, and the label ‘perv’. Bering provides the evolution of the term ‘perverse’. It would seem the moniker of ‘perverse’ is attributed to one who is turning away from what is right according to the Judeo-Christian religion, namely an atheist. It was only in the late 19th century that ‘perv’ is common usage in reference to sexual deviance.

Sexual deviance is only deviant as compared to a persisting standard or norm. It was not that long ago that masturbation was considered a sexual deviance and a psychological illness. Further Bering claims, as the title indicates, we are all sexual deviants in varying degrees. We have all thought sexual thoughts which we would not divulge to others in general conversations. Consider, rape fantasies or voyeuristic or exhibitionist fantasies… There is a social standard or norm which few of us would casually flout.

Which brings us to the notion that what goes on in our minds is no one else’s business unless and until we act it out, and perhaps not even then.

Bering states that the present debate on sexual deviance rests on the dichotomy of ‘what is natural’ against ‘what is unnatural’. He suggests perhaps a better test may be ‘what is harmful’. His argument is rather convincing, at least to me.

Treating an individual as a pervert in essence, and hence with a purposefully immoral mind, because his or her brain conjures up atypical erotic ideas or respond sexually to stimuli that other have deemed inappropriate objects of desire, is medieval in both its stupidity and its cruelty.

The gendered conception of sexual deviance between the sexes can be seen from the psychological explanation and treatment approach to nymphomania and satyriasis (this being the male counterpart to nymphomania) – for example, satyrs are men who do sick things, while nymphos are women who are sick as women cannot possibly have sexual desires.

Bering then went on to explain and describe the many different sexual inclinations and with case studies to match, including ornithophilia (an intense desire for birds), necrophilia, foot fetish, podophilia (toes being the object of desires), etc. They are mind-boggling to say the least. His take on paedophilia and the age of consent is courageous indeed given the prevailing sentiment surrounding it. I will leave you to read it for yourself. He does make a sensible point.

Of course, a book on sexual deviance would be incomplete without addressing the issue of sexual orientation – homosexuality, transsexuality etc. Bering states that a person’s sexuality is determined by a lottery at birth – our sexuality is determined through a combination of 4 factors

  • Sexual orientation – homosexual, heterosexual, bi-sexual or asexual;
  • Erotic target – person, animal, inanimate or none;
  • Erotic behaviour – normal intercourse, courtship paraphilia, other paraphilia or masturbation; and
  • Erotic age orientation – pedophilia (prepubescent), hebephilia (pubescent), ephebophilia (older adolescent), teleiophilia (mature adult), gerontophilia (elderly), or none.

Fortunate for me living under present societal standard and norm (‘social jackpot’ in Bering’s term), I am heterosexual, person, normal intercourse and teleiophilia. Care to identify your combination? Remember, it need not be acted upon, thoughts count too 🙂

This book is made all the more interesting by Bering’s irreverence, dry wit and humor, with his deft handling of the ‘intense’ topics. His humane liberal approach is endearing.  There were many laugh-out-loud moments, which earned me quizzical looks on the train commute especially when I was holding up a book titled ‘Perv’.

Perhaps it is time to look at issues of sexuality from the lens of ‘harm’ instead of ‘nature’ or ‘religion’, and to differentiate the harm value between thought and action. Just because we think it, does not mean we will do it. And if we do do it, are we harming others? And if not, is it a matter for public or private governance? And why the condemnation and/or persecution? As a psychotherapist, my question is this – what benefits can shame, stigma, ostracism and separateness create?

And a word of caution from Bering – when we identify a person by his or her sexuality,

“…we’ve lost the trees for the forest. … our knowledge of a person’s hidden sexual desires overshadows everything else we know about him or her…

Who would I recommend this book to?              

This is a book of ideas, visions and possibilities on sexuality. It is intended to challenge prevailing views, standards and norms rather than a book for scientific study. The 13-page bibliographic notes is indicative of a well-researched book.

I recommend this book for the curious minds, as well as those open and willing to explore, at the least intellectually ;-), different paradigms of human sexuality.

 

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:   NA
Made Me Think:                   4/5
Overall enjoyment:                3.5/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                      3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Audible Audio USD 23.61
  Kindle USD 9.64
  Paperback USD 12.97
Booktopia Paperback AUD 20.95
Bookdepository Paperback €11.01

 

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

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The honesty in poetry @FTThum

My love for poetry grows… Why? The honesty to be found in each pause, the depth of emotion in each word… insight through the spoken and the unspoken.  The freedom and space for the reader to imagine a world.

Listen.

May you find your words,
– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

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Book review by @FTThum – Second Life by @SJ_Watson

I read SJ Watson’s debut novel ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ when it was released in 2011, which was then made into a film in 2014 starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.  I enjoyed the book tremendously so when his second book ‘Second Life’ was released in February this year, how could I possibly resist?

 

second life book coverTitle:               Second Life
Author:          SJ Watson
Publisher:    Doubleday (2015)
ISBN:             9781922079251 (paperback)
ASIN:             9781921961472 (ebook)
Website:       http://www.sjwatson-books.com/
Facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/S.J.Watson.Writer
Genre:          
Fiction, Psychological thriller

 

 

What’s it about?

How well do we truly know another?

When Julia Plummer’s sister, Kate, is found dead in Paris in suspicious circumstances, she sets out to uncover the truth. This takes her into the world of internet dating and hook-ups where her sister was known to traverse. All this at the risk of jeopardizing her relationship with her husband and the life of her son.  It is gradually revealed that Julia’s 14-year-old son, Connor is actually Kate’s child, the result of a fling with an unknown man.  Julia, now a professional photographer, appears to be a respectable middle-class woman, a dedicated mother. Then her past returns to haunt her – her alcoholism from her days in Berlin. Julia is trapped in her mind – constantly questioning her own motivations and desires; ignoring her intuition and burdened with baggage.

While Julia is filled with pathos (complete with baggage), there is a lack of depth in comparison for the other characters, particularly that of Lukas, the man Julia met online. The same for her long-suffering husband, Hugh who is 10-years older encountering problems of his own.

Watson’s attempt at eroticism through Julia’s ‘online dating’ seems forced, although his portrayal of the dark side of internet relationships is horrifying. The voice of Julia is less believable than the voice of Christine of Watson’s first book. The ending is for me dissatisfying – abrupt and utterly convenient.

Simply put, this second book of Watson’s did not live up to his first.   Nevertheless, it is entertaining.

Recommendation:

This book is a well paced and easy to read psychological thriller with enough suspense to carry it through, yet containing loop holes easily identifiable if one is to go looking. So don’t. Just read for near-mindless pleasure.

LWI Rating:

Realistic Characterization: 3/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:             3.5/5
Readability:                            4/5
Recommended:                    3/5

Overall Rating:                    3/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Hardback USD 19.88
  Paperback USD 19.88
  Kindle USD 9.99
Bookdepository Hardback Euro 19.47
  Paperback Euro 14.52
Booktopia Paperback AUD 25.50
  Ebook AUD 42.40

 

Happy reading!
– FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

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Book review by @FTThum – The Fictional Woman by @Tara_Moss

 

I picked this book off the shelf because its cover caught my eye- the labels written on the author’s face and the title jumped at me, speaking to me of something that I feel very strongly about. What is being a woman in this world about?

Fictional Woman

Title:               The Fictional Woman
Author:          Tara Moss
Publishers:   Harper Collins Australia (2014)
ISBN-10:        0732297893
ISBN:              9781460700587
Website:         http://taramoss.com/book/fictional-woman/
Twitter:          @Tara_Moss
Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/taramossauthor
Pages:              328
Genre:             Non-fiction; Biography; Feminism

What’s it about?

Tara Moss has worn many labels in her time.

Now, in her first work of non-fiction, she blends memoir and social analysis to examine the common fictions about women…

The question is – why do I want to read a biography of Tara Moss? I knew of her as a fiction writer and some vague reference of her being an ex-model. Curiosity. I was curious about the world of modelling and how a model became an author. I had my reservation about Moss writing an interesting and convincing feminist text (at first glance from the cover) not because of her ability but merely a change in writing genre. Well, I took a chance and I am glad.

The book does not disappoint. Readers will get a perspective of Moss’ life – early life in Canada to her modelling days in Europe then later life in Australia. She presents the narrative of her life in a well-balanced manner – enough emotions to allow readers to see her humanness, passion for her beliefs and convictions, strength to protect herself and hers.

Most interesting is the weaving of Moss’ life experiences with social analysis, telling her life from the perspective of a woman – to show to the world how her experience is gendered. She is not only ‘woman’ say, when a mother or a female model, but all the time. She reminds her readers she is ‘woman’ in everything she does and because of this, her experiences are what her experiences are.

This book is definitely not a feminist text, if one defines ‘text’ as being academic and peppered with research and studies. Being a Ph.D candidate at the University of Sydney, Moss is certainly capable of writing a text. But this book is something better – story-telling by a woman of substance who presents her life from a feminist sociological perspective, supported by credible statistics and references. It is an erudite perspective on common labels forced upon women such as ‘gold diggers’, ‘mean girls’, ‘femme fatale’, and ‘crone’.

To clarify, Moss’ defines ‘feminism’ as

…the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

And if you believe and expounds (or fight for) one or many of these equalities, whether on the world stage or at the dinner table, then you are a feminist.

Moss is even-handed in her approach. She raises anomalies, paradoxes, conundrums, and questions about gender inequality. She challenges the readers’ perceptions and acceptance of pervading normative philosophy. There are few judgments as Moss presents a matter-of-fact exposition about the state of gender disparity in our world.

Moss touches on many topics, which central theme is to debunk the myths and stereotypes of a ‘real woman’ and along the way, of ‘real men’ in our society.

She calls for greater female participation, direction and management in the arts and media.

More and more, women are participating in the storytelling that shapes our perceptions of the world. Perhaps in time, with a different balance of storytellers, we will be less reliant on the old sexual stereotypes…

According to Moss, gender stereotyping is not just about women, it is also about men. It prevents both women and men from realising their potential, from embracing aspects of themselves. Her narrative on the ‘beautiful man’ is inspiring – analogies to the Spanish flamenco dancer and matador – where both men and women imbued with sensuality are ‘permitted’ by society to express it. To quote Moss,

Why has our culture, specifically, rejected or forgotten ‘male beauty’? Why are men and boys commonly humiliated and ridiculed for grooming or dressing in a way that aims to be aesthetically beautiful…

As we associate emotion, caring and sensuality with the feminine, and we penalise men for identifying with these traits, we have in essence excised male vulnerability, caring, emotion and the ‘desire to be desired’ from the mainstream…

The beauty myths for men and women continue, it would seem.

Moss also questions the role we as a society allow the media and advertising to play as moral guides as well as the reflectors of societal expectations and norms.

How did advertising cease to be a thing that existed to try to turn us towards something, but actually became as real to us as the thing itself?

I have highlighted a few topics which Moss addresses in this book through the lens of her lived experience. There are many more topics which are highly entertaining and thought-provoking. Moss owns all that she says, the labels that have been applied to her, the labels which she now assumes, the reasons for her being.

And the ending to the book is heartfelt:

Now I have laid my own truths bare in the Fictional Woman, because today I can afford to tell my story, emotionally, but also financially, without worrying about where my next meal will come from, as I once did…

The next chapter is yours.

A challenge? A call to activism? Your call.

Who would I recommend this book to?

The Fictional Woman is a page-turner, written with passion and conviction, concise and succinct in its exploration of feminist issues which have touched Moss’ life.

This is a book for you who wish to see the world a little differently.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Tara Moss, or the life of a model, or the life of a writer, or the journey of a woman.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:   4.5/5
Made Me Think:                   4/5
Overall enjoyment:                4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                      4.5/5
Overall Rating:                     4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Audible USD 26.95
  Kindle USD 9.10
 Booktopia Paperback AUD 25.25

 

Enjoy!
– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

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Book review by @FTThum – Sword of Air by RJ Madigan

sword-of-air-florence-thum-review

I rarely say ‘no’ to new experiences in books, which was why I was keen to read this book.

Sword of AirTitle:               Sword of Air
Author:          RJ Madigan
Website:          http://swordofair.net/author/swordofair/
Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Sword-of-Air/855233981196248
Genre:           Young Adult – Fantasy
Available for purchase:       iTunes (USD $3.99)

What’s it about?

This is a YA fantasy about Niamh, a young woman discovering the power she possesses, and her destiny and quest to save her world from the Raven Queen.

Who is the Raven Queen? What is Niamh’s true quest? A question which only Niamh herself can determine.

And as she fights for her life being hunted by the Fomor army controlled by the Raven Queen, Niamh is caught between 2 men – Lorcan, Crown Prince of the Fae who is rebellious and arrogant; and Rauri, her childhood friend, a talented tracker and hunter; and a fighter. Who will betray her? Who will stand by her side?

I’ll begin with the format of this book. This is a “multi-touch iBook”. As denoted by the ‘i’, it is available on iTunes and to be read on iPad and Apple computers only. The ‘multi-touch’ means it’s more than an ebook – there are some pretty cool interactive stuff within the book. Yes, interactive.

It’s FX in a book – so when images within the book are tapped – they expand or audio plays or 3-D rotations up close and personal or video/movie plays. This is my first multi-touch interactive book and it’s awesome. That is until the novelty wears off. Both my adolescent children had a look, and one of whom read parts of the book. They were intrigued by the effects but not for long.

The interactive parts can be considered an enhancement to book illustrations, but different. Utilising the same part of the brain, looking at book illustrations and reading the written words are complementary. However, reading then watching a movie, listening to sounds require a re-focusing on the written words. This irritates me at times.

Ultimately, I bought this book for the story. And for me, the interactive touches distract from the reading flow and can take the focus away from the novel.

Now onto the storyline – it is intriguing and engaging. The characters are attractive though some lack depth. Certainly, the relationship between Rauri and Niamh can be better developed.

Madigan’s writing is simple and lacking in complexity of structures at times. Simply put, it is more tell than show. Please do not be discouraged. Once I accept the simplicity of the writing, I am captivated by the story which unfolds. The plot is gripping, and has much potential beyond this book.  Madigan has painted a vivid picture of this fantasy world of an altered medievil Ireland – that of the forest of Nadur and the Fae world.

There is good pacing in the plot. One thing did strike me – it is not quite believable that Maev, the Raven Queen, would believe in Niamh’s almost immediate capitulation – unless she believes Niamh is acquiescing for her friends and/or Maev’s frenzied mind wants her to believe so…? Perhaps this is Madigan keeping the reader in suspense for the next book in the series.

The ending seems a little protracted although it does provide a credible twist and a fantastic lead-on to the next book.

Recommendation:

I recommend this book on 2 bases – it is worthwhile for writers to experience this new format, the interactive iBook; and the story is indeed captivating. It is suitable for young adult readers, especially those who have found reading to be a ‘novelty’ and need some motivation to persevere.

Do read Madigan’s post on the thrill and challenges of publishing an iBook.  Such worthwhile information about publishing through iBook Author.

Ratings:

Realistic Characterization:   3.5/5
Made Me Think:                     3/5
Overall enjoyment:                3.5/5
Readability:                             4.5/5
Recommended:                      3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  3.5

 

Happy reading!
– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

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