Hastings District Libraries

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Trouble with Alice by Olivia Glazebrook

The Trouble with Alice gets off to a gripping start that keeps you reading to the end. It is the story of a relationship, with Alice and Kit a couple just starting out when Alice discovers she’s pregnant. Kit is older, but not so much smarter, and a bit condescending: Why do we go out with these young girls? Kit asks his art dealer friend, but as you get to know Kit, he isn’t all that much more mature himself.

The story begins when Alice and Kit have a car accident while on holiday and events spiral downwards from there. Alice stops looking after herself and gets ill; Kit doesn’t know how to communicate with her or take care of her. Fortunately it’s family to the rescue: Kit’s difficult wheel-chair bound and constantly carping father; his mother is much kinder but there’s a schism in her relationship with her son.

The book charts Alice’s recovery and she and Kit have to do a lot of soul-searching and growing-up before there can be any resolution. It is a fairly simple story but what makes it interesting is the complex characters, the rich and varied settings and the quirky, fun dialogue. Humour bubbles through the pathos in a way that resembles Mary Wesley and Joanna Trollope. Terrific writing, sharp and wise.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Trouble with Alice

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

Jim and Bob Burgess and their sister Susan grew up in a small town in Maine.  At the age of three Bob released the handbrake while playing in the car, causing the death of their father and infamy for himself in their town ever after.
As adults both Burgess boys become lawyers and escape to New York.  Older brother Jim becomes highly successful and well known through a famous case, and while the brothers are close, Bob endures subtle put-downs and is left in no doubt he is the less successful of the two.
When the brothers are called back to their home town to help their nephew who has made headlines over a racist attack, family ties become strained and the past is re-examined.
Having recently read another of Elizabeth Stroud's novels
My Name is Lucy Barton, the themes of family secrets and tense relationships are familiar and again realistically portrayed.

Posted by Katrina

Catalogue link: The Burgess Boys

*I can't help myself - have to share this much more amusing review from the goodreads website with full credit to reader Sheila, who posted this review of The Burgess Boys (sorry not sorry that you are going to be singing the Brady Bunch theme in your head all day!):

cue the music to the Brady Bunch theme song

Here's the story,
Of a lonely lady,
Who was bringing up her very lonely son.
He threw a pig's head in church,
Just for the heck of it,
Then he was on the run.

Here's the story,
Of the lady's brothers,
Who were scheming, competing, cheating on their own.
They were two men,
Telling lies together, but they were soon both alone.

Till the one day when the truth came to the surface,
and they knew that these were much more than ploys.
That this group,
Was really quite dysfunctional.
That's the way they all became the Burgess Boys,
The Burgess Girl, the Burgess Boys
That's the way they became the Burgess Boys.

Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15823461-the-burgess-boys

Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

We’ve all read those books about unlucky towns that seem to keep narrowly missing out on being destroyed by monsters and aliens, only to be saved just in time some hero with a dark past or supernatural ability. Books where it relies on just one person (or group of kids) to repeatedly save the day, sacrificing their lives (or at least their social lives) for the sake of the people around them.

Well this isn’t that book. This is a book about some of the other kids who live in that town. It’s about the kids who go to school with the heroes. Who know what’s going on around them, but realize that it isn’t their job to intervene. But don’t let that fool you. They might not be fighting off aliens or defeating vampires, but their lives take an interesting twist of their own.

Whether it’s dealing with a mother who is more interested in her career than her family, learning to cope with a mental illness, or trying to get one of your best friends to fall in love with you, this book definitely seems to have something for everyone. I couldn’t put it down, and I consider it one of the best books I’ve read all year.

Posted by Sas

Thursday, 23 June 2016

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Anthony Doerr gives us a compelling glimpse of one corner of World War II - the pounding the Allies gave Saint-Malo in their campaign to free France. He does this through the lives of two main characters: sixteen-year-old civilian Marie-Laure and Werner Pfennig, an eighteen-year-old German radio operator.

As the story begins, messages flutter down to the last remaining inhabitants of Saint-Malo, warning them to leave the town, due to be bombed the next day. Marie-Laure cannot read them because she is blind, while Werner is part of the last of the line of defence. As the bombs rain down, each makes their way into the underground cellars that could possibly entomb them.

The story switches back ten years to Marie-Laure’s childhood in Paris with her widowed father, a master of locksmithery at the natural history museum. We read of Werner’s life in an orphanage with his sister Jutte, where he discovers radio and a gift for technology.

Doerr’s characters are extremely sympathetic as well as intelligent and questioning. But they are fragile too. Marie-Laure could be targeted by Nazi eugenics policies, so her father hides her away in Saint-Malo with his reclusive Uncle Etienne and a feisty old housekeeper. Werner is pale and little, poised to be sent to the mines when he turns sixteen, until his knack with radios sees him groomed for Hitler Youth at a boarding school that makes Dotheboys Hall look like a holiday camp.

The terrible events of the war would seem to remove any self-determination from these characters. There is evil in many guises, particularly in the form of one Sergeant Major von Rumpel, but in spite of this, both Werner and Marie-Laure battle on, which keeps the plot simmering. There are amazing connections between the two they could never guess at, making their eventual meeting inevitable. The hefty emotional pull of events leading up to and after the bombing leaves you feeling moved and with much to mull over.

You don’t need me to tell you that this is a good book. The fact that it has won both the Pullitzer Prize and the Carnegie Medal kind of hints in that direction. It is also a wonderfully readable book, vivid, gripping and elegant, a powerful story that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Posted by JAM

Monday, 20 June 2016

Third Thursday Book Group reads....

At the start of it all, Jonathan Pine is merely the night manager at a luxury hotel. But when a single attempt to pass on information to the British authorities - about an international businessman at the hotel with suspicious dealings - backfires terribly, and people close to Pine begin to die, he commits himself to a battle against powerful forces he cannot begin to imagine. A chilling tale of corrupt intelligence agencies, billion-dollar price tags and the truth of the brutal arms trade. 

In San Casciano, a small Tuscan village of 200 people, Marlena and her Italian husband, Fernando, rent a barely renovated former stable with no telephone, no heating and something resembling a toy kitchen. They live among ancient olive groves and hot Etruscan springs in this patch of earth where Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio collide. Fascinated by the rural tradition, Marlena finds her muse in Barlozzo, an older man who represents the typical Tuscan.

London's East End has always been a social and racial melting pot and never more so than today. PI Lee Arnold and his assistant Mumtaz Hakim don't mind - it keeps them on their toes. It is November. The days are getting darker and they have a new case on their hands. A young Asian couple moves into a dilapidated house in Upton Park.

A star known for her strong female roles in Star Trek: Voyager and Orange Is the New Black offers a deeply moving account of the price and rewards of a passionate life.  "A fabulous read"

Quirky and creative, sisters Ruth Nelson and Gwen Malden purchased the rundown Kereru Station in the aftermath of World War II. Reviving the sprawling sheep station's fortunes, these visionary women channelled its profits into their favoured causes.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Roundabout Man by Clare Morrall

"I've gone through my entire life being a Quinn who doesn't exist, the scruffy child who can't do up his shoe laces.  As an adult I'm invisible.  No one is ever interested in me, only my fictional character."

The Roundabout Man is a charming and poignant novel about why someone might chose to live on the fringes of society, and how a caring community can form in all sorts of situations.

Quinn lives in a caravan among the woods in a huge roundabout in the United Kingdom. He lives simply and largely unnoticed, foraging for leftovers at a nearby service centre where most of the staff turn a discrete blind eye.
A violent assault follows a newspaper article revealing his whereabouts, and Quinn is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers and staff from the service centre.

As a child Quinn was immortalised in Enid Blyton-type books written by his cold and distant mother; describing the real and imagined exploits of Quinn and his triplet sisters.
As Quinn is reunited with his estranged sisters he begins to try and make sense of his childhood and the aloof and really quite dreadful behaviour of his famous mother.

Insightful and evocative; an uplifting read that will have me searching out more of the work of Clare Morrall.

Posted by Katrina

Catalogue link: The Roundabout Man

Friday, 10 June 2016

The Other Child by Charlotte Link

When the body of a young female student is discovered in Scarborough, DI Valery Almond is at a loss for suspects. Another body turns up which looks like a copy-cat crime, while Almond and her team struggle to find any connection between the two victims.

Of course there is much more here than meets the eye until hints of a dark secret emerge, with connections to the wartime evacuation of children to the area. The story flips back to the experiences of young Fiona Swales, billeted at a Yorkshire farm, where she makes friends with Chad and Brian, the young child that latches onto Fiona. Modern day Fiona is still in touch with Chad with whom she corresponds by email but when her granddaughter Leslie appears, recovering from a marriage break-up, disturbing facts begin to emerge.

Charlotte Link has created an atmospheric psychological thriller that slowly reveals the motives that drive its characters. While the police investigation is a part of the plot, The Other Child is more about a core group of ordinary people and their connections to the past. It's a real page turner that will keep you guessing until the last. Link is a hugely popular crime writer in her home country of Germany, and you would never guess that this novel isn't written by an English author.

Posted by Flaxmere Library Book Chat

Catalogue link: The Other Child