Round Up Reviews – No 624 – 622

I said I wouldn’t do this, but I am going to have to.

Adobe Spark (7)

Circumstances have dictated that I’m going to have to do a few round up reviews, just to clear the back log! Life has been very busy these last few weeks and I have started to feel stressed about falling behind on my blogging and the fact that I am not keeping up with all your posts. I really wanted to do full review for all 20 books this summer, but I have to remind myself that I blog for FUN and my posts should be a release rather than a worry, so I’m cutting myself a bit of slack and doing a few mini-reviews just to get things up to date.

I do plan to do full reviews of a couple of recent books – This is How and Apple Tree Yard – both of which I think deserve full reviews for very different reasons, but in the meantime, here are some of the books I’ve managed to get through in these past few weeks.

No 624 A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

spell of winter - Copy

I am a big fan of Helen Dunmore’s writing and A Spell of Winter doesn’t disappoint. Catherine and her brother Rob live with their grandfather in an isolated crumbling mansion in the years before World War 1. Their mother has abandoned them and their father has gone mad, so the siblings find comfort in the memories and half-truths of their home, and eventually their relationship turns incestuous. Reminiscent of a Brontë novel, it is to Dunmore’s credit that this tale does not veer into the ludicrous featuring as it does incest, abortion, madness, war and eventually murder. This is down to the beautiful prose and the sensitive characterisation – she evokes sympathy for her characters even when they are doing terrible things and as the novel ends, a glimmer of hope enters to thaw the snow.

Read On: Book

20 Books of Summer: 5/20

Number Read: 123

Number Remaining: 623

 

No 623 Blue Nights by Joan Didion

blue nights - Copy

Didion’s iconic The Year of Magical Thinking, written about the sudden death of her husband John Dunne was a searing and moving meditation on loss and grief and was also a moving portrait of a man and a marriage. Blue Nights is a tragic companion piece to that book, dealing as it does with the death of Didion’s daughter Quintana only a year later. Like the twilight of its title, Blue Nights is a vague and somewhat insubstantial book. Quintana remains an elusive figure within the pages, which feature Didion musing on motherhood, parenting and old age. She fixates on other people she knows who have died young (including family friend Natasha Richardson) and worries about how she brought up her daughter. It is a fragile and tremulous piece of writing, repeating phrases like incantations that will ward off painful truths. Where The Year of Magical Thinking felt universal, Blue Nights feels almost too specific to have that same emotional depth and charge. However, when Didion writes about her own personal frailty and her fear of losing her cognitive abilities, then we see the strength and the courage that she possesses in even writing this admirable book. 

Read On: iBook

20 Books of Summer: 6/20

Number Read: 124

Number Remaining: 622

 

No 622 Sister by Rosamund Lupton

sister

Rosamund Lupton’s charged and well-paced thriller focuses on the bond between two different, but close sisters. New York based designer Beatrice gets a call to say her younger sister, artist Tess, has gone missing, so she returns to London to discover what has happened to her beloved sister. What follows is a novel framed as a letter from Beatrice to Tess, which drip-feeds the details of Tess’s disappearance and subsequent death to the reader with precise plotting and a strong sense of pace. Details emerge of Tess’s pregnancy and a medical trial she was participating in before her death and these are mingled confidently with insights into the grief and guilt that arises from the violent death of a family member. While I enjoyed Sister and was buoyed along by the strong plot, I had a few issues with the characterisations of Beatrice and Tess, never really feeling I was getting a sense of who they were as people, rather than types. I also found the epistolary nature of the novel to be clunky at times and the ‘twist’ (there always has to be a twist!) at the end of the novel felt really unnecessary. I think I will be in the minority with this view, but I felt the book could have been just as successful, if not more so, without it.

Read on: iBooks

20 Books of Summer: 7/20

Number Read: 125

Number Remaining: 621

 

So, have you read any of these? What did you think?

 

 

 

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53 thoughts on “Round Up Reviews – No 624 – 622

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed A Spell of Winter. I read it last November and found it completely entrancing – the imagery is so strong! And what could have been melodramatic plot points turn out beautiful and delicate instead. Loved it.

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  2. Considering that I’ve been in a slump and haven’t even really started *reading* from my list of summer books, I’m all about cutting slack. I’ve only glanced at your review of A Spell of Winter, since I want to read it soon, so I’m glad to see your positive opinion.

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  3. I am glad that you mentioned that one of the aims of your blog is to have fun – sometimes I stress about mine, and I have to remind myself of the same thing. Thanks for sharing your mini-reviews! I’ve not read Helen Dunmore yet but after reading FictionFan’s recent review and yours I can see that I need to try her soon.

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  4. I have not read these, Cathy, but I’m beginning to really enjoy thrillers, so I will try to get to Sister, which sounds interesting to me. (How’s that for a run-on sentence?) My summer is racing by, and I too have felt bad about missing other bloggers’ posts. I’m finally catching up on a few things!

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  5. I know what you mean about the backlog. Thankfully (or not so thankfully) I had about 6 hours of flights over 4th of July weekend so I managed to completely clear my backlog! Good luck with the rest.

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  6. I have red the Lupton book and tbh, although I enjoyed it, I’m inclined to agree with your comment about the twist. The problem that I found with the twist was that it made me feel the need to go back and revisit certain scenes to check that it all fit in! It’s not so much that I mind having to revisit it’s just that you shouldn’t really need to – the twist should be one of those moments where you have the real and then you have an ‘ahhh’ moment and everything clicks into place. I didn’t feel that so much with this one.
    Lynn 😀

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  7. I haven’t read any of these, but I DID meet a woman through Facebook who wrote and talked publicly about her incestuous relationship with her much older brother, who had (when I discovered her and her writing) recently died. She even took a forensics class to recreate his skull. I’d never met anyone like that and won’t soon forget her. We’re not friends anymore; I removed everyone from Facebook who isn’t a good friend or family member.

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  8. I read Sister a few years ago and though I don’t have a review written, I can see that I gave it 4 stars and I seem to remember that I did very much like it. Those other two look quite good!

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  9. I’m glad you felt you could do round-up reviews, we don’t want you stressing over it all. And having to read all our 20Books reviews too – I have enough trouble keeping up with the few blogs I read!

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  10. Great, honest reviews! I think I would like Helen Dunmore since she resonates with the Brontes. I have read none of the above, but I am reading as much as I can. Thanks Cathy@

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  11. I wasn’t a super enthusiast of Sister either, mainly for the reasons you give but also because of its unrelieved misery. I did however love my recent introduction to Helen Dunmore, with Exposure, and am looking forward a lot to reading her back catalogue – her characterisation is wonderful!

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    • As I was reading Sister, I thought some if the structure was clunky and at the end realised that was to accomodate the ‘twist’. I think it would have been a smoother book without it. I have two more Helen Dunmore’s in the 746 – she’s a beautiful writer.

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  12. I have that same sinking feeling about the backlog of reviews too and I don’t even have the same excuse of just having started a new job. Its very odd but where I am really fine when other bloggers post short pieces instead of full reviews, I can’t seem to bring myself to do it. But I’m going to have the stiffen the sinews …..

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  13. Dunmore was a charity shop find for me years ago. I enjoyed it, not knowing anything about Dunmore then. Very atmospheric, although whenever I stopped to think about it, I was struck by how weird the set up was, and wondered about the strange path of those characters’ lives in becoming so warped.
    Joan Didion – I read an Amazon review where the reviewer was outraged at the author’s self-absorption and seeming lack of focus on her daughter. Of course we can’t judge other people’s bringing up of their children, but that more or less summed up my feelings too.
    Sister was a BBC radio adaptation. I think I stopped listening because I found the characters annoying (and a bit distant and generic), but that could be to do with the abridgement, or could also be a Radio 4 thing, where all female characters turn into a kind of earnest, softly spoken, slightly wondering middle class woman voice.

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  14. I felt the same about Blue Nights, like I was getting a glimpse of something very specific and very painful I wasn’t going to be able to understand. It was so sad. So much loss so soon.

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  15. I have a feeling there will be a few mini-reviews in my future as well! I love reading other people’s mini-reviews, but I do know what you mean about giving each book its due, especially when it’s particularly good or thought-provoking.
    I have yet to read a Dunmore, but she’s on my list. My library has a few, but this isn’t one of them. From what I hear, though, most of them are worth reading. 🙂

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