No 709 – 707: Wives, War and Wonder

Oh dear. My 20 Books of Summer challenge is not going to plan. Is there some kind of book blogger punishment if you can’t even complete your own challenge??

An ear infection (mine) and a stabbed hand (the hubbie’s) have put paid to a lot of reading time this summer. So far I’ve read 12 of my 20. Which leaves me 8 to read in a mere 26 days. I don’t want to be pessimistic but I don’t think it’s gonna happen!
In order to maximise reading time, my reviews are going to get shorter. So apologies to all who were looking forward to my in depth character analysis and narrative structure thesis on Hollywood Wives, there just aren’t enough hours in the day……

No 709 Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins

hollywood

There really isn’t much to say about Hollywood Wives. What did I expect?

Thinly drawn characters? Check.

Badly written sex scenes? Yep.

Women who say things like, ‘she remembered the day well, because he had climaxed all over her new Sonia Rykiel skirt’? Well, maybe not…..

What I also didn’t expect was for the first half of the book to be so, well, boring. Jackie has a lot of characters to introduce us to and it takes a long time for the book to get going. By the time I’d met a myriad of characters including the pneumatic movie star trying to be taken seriously, the good looking aging actor trying to balance his affairs with his failing movies and the young stud, trying to build his Hollywood career whilst hiding his nefarious past I was gasping for a bit of drama (pardon the pun). It is there eventually, murder, death, sex and a rather marvellous case of vaginismus – but thirty years on, it’s all a bit tame. There is a serial killer plot line that comes good at the ridiculous end, but takes up way too much time at the start and quite a few totally superfluous plot lines and characters that distract from the main action. Had I sneaked my Mum’s copy and read this at 16, around the time I was reading Flowers in the Attic, I’m sure I would have loved its soapy distractions, but now? Not so much.

Read On: iBooks
Number Read: 38
Number Remaining: 708

 

No 708 Black Watch by Gregory Burke

I’ve reviewed plays before and it’s a tough one, because, obviously, plays are written to be performed, not read. If ever there was a play that needed to be seen, not read, it is Black Watch. I know, because you can watch the entire original production on You Tube.
Do yourself a favour, watch it.

 

 

Black Watch is based on interviews with soldiers who have fought in this historic squadron after a tour of Iraq. The play is both an indictment of the foreign policy that sent these men on such a meaningless mission and it is a celebration and a tribute to the familial, almost tribal aspect of military life. It could have been a clichéd anti-war manifesto, but the humour, horror and emotive strength of this piece of work elevates it to a different league. Burke does not sentimentalise these soldiers, rather he honours them, while not honouring the cause they were fighting for. At the same time lovable and crude, the soldiers make it clear that they are fighting for each other and nothing more. A mingling of physical performance, poetry and even dance in a play about tough Scottish soldiers really shouldn’t have worked, but Burke and the National Theatre of Scotland created a piece that reminds us of what it is to be human, even in the midst of war.

Read On: Book
Number Read: 39
Number Remaining: 707

 
No 707 Wonder by RJ Palacio

 

wonder

I bought this book with no knowledge of what it was other than the story of a boy with a disfigured face. I have since seen it described as Young Adult Fiction, pre-teen Fiction, or a Book to Make Grown Men Cry. But let’s face it – Wonder is very much a children’s book which has been deftly marketed to reach a wider audience. Now, I have no problem with people reading YA or kids books. Read what you like, I don’t care. But I don’t normally read YA or children’s books and while this is a lovely, heart warming, emotional tale that it is really hard to criticise, it had little to tell me. August Pullman is going to middle school for the first time which is harder for him than most kids due to his craniofacial abnormality. Wonder tells the story of Auggie’s first year at school, the hardships and bullying alongside the moments of friendship and acceptance.

It is told from several different viewpoints (which all sound pretty similar) and as you go along with its irresistible pull you are reminded that it is better to be kind, you shouldn’t judge people by how they look and that we are all just trying to fit in and be loved. It builds to an uplifting, moving finale which I’m sure has made grown men cry. It made me cry. Bad guys got their comeuppance, Auggie got his happy ending (for now) and mostly everyone was lovely. It’s like A Prayer for Owen Meany written for kids. I can see why it’s a phenomenon, why there have been 2 spin-off books and why it’s being made into a film. It’s a book that is hard to criticise, so what I will say is that while I look forward to reading it to the twins when they are older, at 42, Wonder contains life lessons that I’ve already learned and learned again. The hard way.

Read On: Kindle
Number Read: 40
Number Remaining: 706

 

It may be going slow, but the Challenge continues with Black Water Rising by Attica Locke.

black water 20

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28 thoughts on “No 709 – 707: Wives, War and Wonder

  1. Don’t berate yourself! As long as you’re enjoying the reading, that’s all that matters.

    I am at 8 of 20 (plus 9/10 of #9 and 25% of #10 and the first few pages of #11) but have hope of finishing due to the upcoming Bout of Books read-a-thon the week of the 18th. That sort of event encouraging me to avoid the internet and other entertainments and read a lot more than I normally would is pretty much the only way I can get through a number of titles in short order. After the read-a-thon, I’ll have a week left to mop up the stragglers.

    I hope you and your husband are on the mend!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those are two very painful setbacks 😦 Although I see that it hasn’t affected your desire to give us a little diversity 🙂

    Your comments about YA were interesting. I wonder what I would make of my adolescent tastes these days? They are too long ago for me to remember them objectively, although I do remember being entranced by Sweet Valley High! It’s a long way between that and 100 Years of Solitude… it makes me wonder how authors pitching for that audience know whereabouts to pitch it, and how complex they can get.

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    • I totally understand people reading YA and I have no problem with it, but as I get older, I am looking for different things out of my reading material, than I imagine your average 16 year old is. Wonder is not a bad book, it’s just not a good book for me. I need more compexity. I adored Sweet Valley High. I doubt I could read them now though, but they were perfect for me at the time.

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      • I suppose at least SWH had no pretensions! I have at times got irritated with kids’ audio books on in the car, unrealistic characters etc, but the children saw no problems with them.

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  3. Love the review of Hollywood Wives and I was one of those readers, was it really 30 years ago? Of course I was far too young and only read it for the ‘Badly written sex scenes’ Thanks for making me chuckle.

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  4. 12 out of 20 is good, I think! I find it harder to find reading time in the summer, than any other time of the year (and blogging time – you may have noticed). I bought Wonder for my kids, so it’s good to know you think it has positive life lessons. They need as many as they can get! 🙂

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  5. I’ll have to make sure to watch Black Watch. The preview reminded me of the book Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which I enjoyed (as much as you can enjoy a book about how war affects soldiers). I’m not doing to well with my 10 books… I’ve read plenty and will end up with more than 10 books; they are just not the ones I had planned to read. Oh well, the most important part is to have fun and not have the reading and writing become a chore. Hope you’re feeling better.

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  6. I have read some pretty bad books (I’ve been reading a lot of bad books lately, to be honest) in my short lifetime. But I can’t say I have read such a way to reminisce a memory (I am picturing Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky at the moment).
    🙂

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  7. Don’t be too hard on yourself, especially taking into account you and your hubbie’s medical conditions this summer. I hope you both recover soon!

    As for the number of books read, I will tell you what my contemporary literature professor said to me: “You have to prefer quality versus quantity. That’s the reading that will stay with you.” So, as long as you can think of a book you read this summer that changed something for you, your work is done 🙂

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