Paper Chains

Paper Chains

Paper Chains

Nicola Moriarty

Random House

288 pp

Copy courtesy of publisher via Netgalley

For the last two months, Hannah has been living in London and working in a museum shop. She has run away from her life in Sydney, Australia, and has been punishing herself because of something she did back home. Then she meets India, who is also an Australian travelling overseas. India is the complete opposite of Hannah – outgoing, friendly, and wants to help people. The two become friends and India makes it her mission to prise Hannah’s secret from her so that she can fix it. India though, is hiding a secret of her own. In the Greek Islands, India met the man of her dreams, Simon. After three perfect weeks though, India left Greece without a trace.  This is where the paper chains of the title comes in. India has been writing letters to Simon, but not posting them. Instead she gives them to other travellers, believing that if they reach Simon then their relationship was meant to be. Her final letter details the big secret she has been hiding and when part of it is posted on the internet it sets in motion a chain reaction of events that leads Simon back to India.

Paper Chains begins in a light-hearted way and we are led to believe that Hannah and India are just running away from failed relationships. It soon becomes clear though that there are much more serious issues at work, and the book becomes highly emotional. It turns out that Hannah has been suffering from post-natal depression and her grief is played out during the book. I thought Moriarty handled this aspect of the novel very sensitively, and I really got a sense of how debilitating post-natal depression can be. Hannah believes she has absolutely no choice but to leave her family. This, combined with a history of suicide in her family, places Hannah in a very fragile state of mind. The book is not all doom and gloom though as Moriarty manages plenty of humour and hope throughout. Paper Chains is a short book but by no means a small book. It is a book about love, hope forgiveness and fate, written with compassion. I loved Paper Chains, which  is Nicola Moriarty’s second novel, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

8/10

This is the first book I have read for the AWW2013 challenge.

awwbadge_2013

Still Alice

Still Alice

Our book club book for January was Still Alice by Lisa Genova, and was chosen by Jo.

Alice Howland is a fifty year-old professor of psychology at Harvard University. She is married to a successful biologist with whom she has three grown children. Alice’s life is hectic – full of work, travel, family commitments and running. Alice has also been diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. Early in the novel we see Alice becoming forgetful which she puts down to over work until one day, she becomes completely disorientated while running her usual route. Alice is devastated but quick to accept her diagnosis, although her husband, John, is not so accepting. Alice takes part in a clinical trial for a new drug, Amylix, and it was interesting to read how these trials work. Much of the novel centres around Alice’s desire to maintain herself and still be ‘Alice’, while conscious of the fact that she is losing her grip on her memory…

“More and more, she was experiencing a growing distance from her self-awareness. Her sense of Alice – what she knew and understood, what she liked and disliked, how she felt and perceived – was … like a soap bubble…”

I was surprised by how quickly this disease took hold of Alice. The entire story spans two years and by the end Alice can no longer remember her own children. This book is a compelling, heart-wrenching and devastating portrayal of life on the inside of Alzheimer’s. I found myself crying over it and Alice’s fate quite a bit – something I don’t usually do when reading. Genova has a PH.D in neuroscience from Harvard which allowed her access to many experts in the field. In the wrong hands, this book could have felt like a science text book, but Genova has done an amazing job in her debut novel, to give it a soul. About a third of the way through the book, Alice goes to visit an Alzheimer’s Special Care Unit, and reminisces about a butterfly necklace her mother once gave her. She remembers being six or seven at the time and being devastated to learn that butterflies only live for a couple of days. Her mother comforts her by saying

“Just because their lives were short didn’t mean they were tragic”.

This is such a poignant quote given Alice’s struggles.

I’m so glad Jo chose this book and I will definitely be searching out more of Lisa’s books in the future.

My rating: 8.5/10

Book club rating: 8.25/10

The Perfume Garden

The Perfume Garden

Author: Kate Lord Brown

Publisher: Corvus Books

read on my kindle

At its heart, The Perfume Garden is a story of love, and loss and family. There is plenty of tragedy, but also romance. Emma Temple is the young heir to the perfume company “Liberty Temple”, named after her mother. After her ex-boyfriend is caught in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the death of her mother, Emma moves to Valencia, Spain. Her mother had bought “Villa del Valle” before she died, and had left it to Emma. She opens a florist shop, called “The Perfume Garden”, selling produce from her abundant garden. While renovating the villa, Emma meets Luca de Santangel and his family, and gradually pieces together the mystery of her own family.

In a parallel story, set against the backdrop of the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War, we meet Charles and Freya Temple. This brother and sister have come to Spain as part of the International Brigade to fight against Franco and the Nationalists. Freya works as a nurse, while Charles works as a journalist/photographer trying to tell the rest of the world of the tragedies occurring all over Spain. They rub shoulders with Neruda and Hemingway who are also in Spain for similar reasons.

I really enjoy reading historical fiction, especially when the subject is something I don’t know a lot about, and I love discovering new writers. I haven’t read any of Kate Lord Brown’s novels before, but I will definitely be reading more in the future. It is similar in style to Belinda Alexandra and Kate Morton, both of whom are authors I love. There were also shades of Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits in one of the main characters, Rosa, who is able to read the future. I have read stories set in Spain during World War Two before, but I was really interested to learn more about the years preceding the war.

I loved the Spanish setting – the relaxed style of living, the food, music and dancing, the colours of the sky, and the vividness of the scenery. Mixed with the fact that Emma is a perfume maker, you can almost smell the orange blossoms and the almond soap as they are described on the page.

8/10

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week bloggers are invited to participate by posting their own Top Ten list on a certain category. To kick off 2013, this weeks’ list is Top Ten books I resolve to read in 2013.

Here is my list:

1. The Wild Girl – Kate Forsyth. I loved Bitter Greens and am really looking forward to Kate’s new book about the Grimm brothers.

2. Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour book store – Robin Sloan. I’ve heard lots od good things about this one on twitter, and it’s all ready to go on my kindle.

3.Foal’s Bread – Gillian Mears. My next book club choice for later in the year.

4. The Diviner’s – Libba Bray. Again this is waiting to go on my kindle.

5. An Abundance of Katherines – John Green. I discovered John Green this year when I read The Fault in our stars, which I loved. I’m hoping to participate in a read-a-long of An Abundance of Katherines in March.

6. And the Mountains echoed – Khaled Hosseini. There is nothing more to say except that I can’t wait for this one!

7. The Girl You Left Behind – Jojo Moyes. I have been looking forward to this one since I was lucky enough to win a copy from Culture Street.

8. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen. This is on my Classics Club list so I will either read this or another Austen in 2013.

9.The Storyteller – Jodi Piccoult. I am reading this for Allen and Unwin for its release in March.

10. Beautiful Darkness – I recently read Beautiful Creatures which I loved, so I am keen to see how the story continues.

So there you have it. My Top Ten books I resolve to read in 2013.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl picture

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Gone Girl is a psychological thriller about the dissolution of a marriage. It is the third novel from Chicago-based novelist Gillian Flynn. Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for five years but have recently grown apart. They had been living in New York until Nick’s Mother was diagnosed with Cancer. They then relocated to Nick’s hometown of Missouri, along the Mississippi River, to care for her. Nick is a journalist, and Amy writes quizzes for a popular magazine, although both have recently lost their jobs. In Missouri, Nick buys a bar with his twin sister Margo. The purchase is funded by Amy, who has a trust fund that was set up by her parents from the proceeds of their successful novels in the Amazing Amy series.

On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy mysteriously disappears from their home. The police are convinced that Nick has killed Amy, but after piecing together a treasure hunt Amy left as an anniversary present, Nick realises that Amy has not only faked her own death, but also framed Nick for her murder.

The novel is written in a dual narrative with the reader getting Nick’s perspective at the current time, and Amy’s story in flashback style which we later discover is a fake diary she has written. Because of the psychological nature of the story, the reader is compelled to keep reading, but because the characters are so unlikeable, I found myself not caring much whether Amy was alive or dead. Gone Girl was my choice for our December book club after I read many glowing reports on twitter. However, I was expecting more of a scary thriller and I didn’t find this book scary in the traditional sense, so I was a bit disappointed on that level. Those of us in book club who finished the book all agreed that Amy was a serious nutcase and the lengths she went to in order to set Nick up were astounding.

My score 7.5/10

Book club score 7/10

2012 End of Year Book Survey

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Jamie over at The Perpetual page-turner is hosting an end of year survey that I thought sounded interesting.

BEST IN BOOKS 2012

1. Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want )

Gold – Chris Cleave

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

The Sense of an ending – Julian Barnes

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?

The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?

Gold – Chris Cleave

5. Best series you discovered in 2012?

Lumatere Chronicles – Melina Marchetta

Caster Chronicles – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

6. Favourite new authors you discovered in 2012?

Chris Cleave. I’ve read all three of his novels this year.

7. Best Book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Finnikin of the Rock – Melina Marchetta. I don’t normally read fantasy, but I loved this!

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?

The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton

9. Book you read in 2012 that you are most likely to re-read next year

The only thing I’ll be re-reading are some classic books for the Classics Club challenge.

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2012?

I don’t really have a stand-out favourite

11. Most memorable character in 2012?

Sophie from Gold by Chris Cleave

Little Bee from Little Bee by Chris Cleave

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?

Easily Questions of Travel – Michelle de Kretser

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?

Gold – Chris Cleave

In the Country of Men – Hisham Matar

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?

Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally

15. Favourite Passage/Quote from a book you read in 2012?

Don’t have one.

16. Shortest & Longest Book you read in 2012?

Longest would be Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it?

The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

18. Favourite Relationship from a book you read in 2012?

Hazel and Augustus from The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Froi and Quintana from the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta

19. Favourite book you read in 2012 from an author you read previously?

All that I am – Anna Funder

20. Best Book you read that you read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else?

Little Bee – Chris Cleave

BOOK BLOGGING/READING LIFE IN 2012

1. New Favourite book blog you discovered in 2012?

I discovered them all this year as I only started blogging in 2012, but my favourite would have to be The Classics Club

2. Favourite review that you wrote in 2012?

Schindler’s Ark

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

The Secret Keeper giveaway

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?

Probably The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D read-a-long hosted by Bree at 1girl2manybooks

5. Best event that you participated in?

Hearing Roddy Doyle speak at the Sydney Writer’s Festival

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2012?

Starting my blog emmalikestoread

7. Most popular post this year on your blog?

Easily The Secret Keeper giveaway

8. Post you wished got a little more love?

Can I say all of them?

9. Best Bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Yes, I’m a little late to the party but The Book Depository.

10. Did you complete and reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I didn’t set any.

LOOKING AHEAD

1. One book you didn’t get to in 2012 but will be your number 1 priority in 2013?

Foal’s Bread – Gillian Mears

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2013?

And the Mountains echoed – Khalid Hosseini

3. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging in 2013?

I have signed up for both The Classics Club Challenge and The Australian Women’s Writers Challenge, so I’m hoping to read some books towards those. I would also love to participate in some more read-a-longs.

Around the World in Eighty Days

Author: Jules Verne

Publisher: Penguin

Category: Literary Fiction

230 pp

Around the World in Eighty Days could be considered the ultimate adventure/travel book. In 1872, during a game of whist at his favourite haunt, The Reform Club, our protagonist, Phileas Fogg, makes a bet with his friends that it is possible to travel around the world in eighty days. Recently, there has been a robbery at the Bank of England, with the thief stealing 55,000 pounds. Fogg and his friends discuss the fact that the world is becoming more accessible, and therefore travel is becoming faster. It is revealed that the Morning Chronicle newspaper had published an article stating it was possible to travel around the world in eighty days, travelling from London – Suez – Bombay – Calcutta – Hong Kong – Yokohama – San Francisco – New York – London. This had become possible because of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the near completion of a Trans-Indian Railroad. Phileas Fogg makes a bet with his friends for 20,000 pounds that he in fact can travel around the world in eighty days, and sets off on his great adventure that same night.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Fix believes Fogg to be the bank robber and writes to Scotland Yard, asking them to issue a warrant for Fogg’s arrest. However, a series of mishaps delays the warrant and sees Fix following Phileas Fogg all the way around the world. Fogg and his French manservant Passepartout have many adventures during their trip. Firstly, Passepartout, who is a somewhat bumbling servant that reminded me of Manuel from Fawlty Towers, leaves the gas on in his room back in London. He then enters a sacred Indian Temple with his shoes on, which results in him losing his shoes and later being arrested. Despite being advertised as complete, the railway from Bombay to Calcutta stops half way, and in order to avoid a delay, Fogg is forced to buy an elephant as a means of transport to Allahabad where they can pick up the train once more. Fogg and Passepartout rescue the Indian Mrs Aouda from certain death, and she accompanies them for the rest of their journey.  In Hong Kong, Passepartout visits an Opium Den with Inspector Fix, and becomes so intoxicated he passes out. This results in Fogg missing his ship to Yokohama, although in a comedy of errors, Passpartout manages to stumble aboard the ship as it sets sail, and the two are separated for a time. By the time the four reach London, the “had used all possible means of transport: steamships, railways, carriages, yachts, commercial vessels, a sledge and an elephant”.

Despite his hot-headedness and clumsiness, Passpartout is the most loyal of servants, and his antics provide some humour against the impassiveness that is Phileas Fogg. At the end of the novel, one of Fogg’s Reform Club friends notes that “our colleague is an eccentric of the highest order”, summing up Fogg’s character perfectly. He is the model of a staid English Gentleman, and as the narrator points out “he was the sort of Englishman who gets his servant to do the sights for him”. Despite this cold exterior, Fogg does prove himself to be capable of warmth when he rescues Mrs Aouda. The juxtaposition of these two characters helps the story a lot. Without Passepartout I think the story would have been very dull.

Originally Around the World in Eighty Days was published in Le Temps newspaper as a serial, and was timed to finish on December 21st – the same day that Phileas Fogg arrives home in the novel. I had intended to read this novel as a serial – one chapter a day – but it didn’t quite pan out like that. Still, I can imagine the French public opening their papers every morning with their coffee and croissants and reading of the adventures of Phileas Fogg, possibly wishing that they too could be travelling around the world in eighty days.

7.5/10

This is the second book read for The Classics Club challenge.