Book Read: Crooked Hearts by Lissa Evans

Crooked Heart by LIssa EvansMy eight book this year (2016).

I chose this because in a Goodreads group that I’m a member of, we’re reading WWII books this month. I had this book in my book case for a while already and wasn’t sure whether it would be for me. Well, I loved it!

A young boy, Noel, living with his grandmother in London, is moved to St Albans when the bombing starts (WWII). He ends up with a woman who only takes him in because she’ll be paid for it. She has no interest in the boy at all. But after a while, he turns out to be useful and a careful bond is forged.

What I liked about the story was that the not very nice woman, Vee, finds that she needs Noel as much as he needs her. Her mother and her son, who live with her too, turn out to be great disappointments, and she has to fend for herself, not always taking the legal way to make money. When things go very bad for her, Noel is there to help, and she realizes she could be a mother to him after all.

There are some interested contrasts in the story. For instance, Noel comes from an educated, rich background while Vee is poor and struggling to keep the roof over her head – eviction is eminent most of the time. Vee comes from a place where people all know each other while Noel comes from London, very much an anonymous place.

The story takes place in war-time England, and this takes a prominent part in the book: bombing, air shelters, food coupons, evacuees, back outs, it’s all there. There is no way the reader can forget in which time this story takes place. The war is an important part of the book, but the story itself is not brutal or bloody.

After I finished the book, I found myself wanting to stay with Vee and the boy a bit longer.

Book Read: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan BradleyThis is my sixth book of the year (2016). It was on my to-read shelves for several years, but as I was (and still am) reading books of which the title starts with an S, this book finally landed on my to-imminently-read pile!

The book is a detective story, set in the 1950s in a village in England. Imagine a village in England where crimes take place, well, that kind of village. The sleuth is an eleven-year-old girl, Flavia, who lives in a manor house with her two older sisters and her father, her mother having died when Flavia was a baby.

Flavia is very precocious, if one can say so of an eleven-year-old. She doesn’t seem to go to school (or is it the holidays? I wasn’t sure), and has a laboratory in the attic, set up by an ancestor. In the lab, she makes up chemical concoctions to tease her sisters, and uses it to help solve a crime.

The crime? She finds a body in the garden of the manor house, early one morning. Her father is arrested, and Flavia is left to her own devices (her sisters not being very useful). With her knowledge of the village and its people, she knows where to enquire and investigate and soon knows a lot more about the dead man and his recent activities than the police do.

This is such a quirky, fun read! It’s easy enough for an adult to engage with Flavia and wish her all the best in finding the murderer (and so, getting her father out of prison). It’s all olde English, funny characters, gentlemen and a librarian. I’m looking forward to another Flavia de Luce read. There are seven in the series; however, I can’t imagine the quirkiness will work past the second or third book. We’ll see!

Book Read: Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift by Hugh HoweyMy second book of the year (2016).

When I bought this book, I didn’t know whether to read it before or after WoolShift is a prequel to Wool, but is the second book in the series. A discussion with the kind book seller (at Waterstone’s in Amsterdam) didn’t help. I bought the book anyway, but left it on the shelves until I had bought and read Wool. Then I left it for another few years…

Although I didn’t remember the details of Wool, I soon realized that there were people in this book who had also appeared in Wool. In fact, we get the back story for what happens in Wool. Not surprisingly, of course, since it’s a prequel.

The story starts with a world as we know it, and then works towards the world in Wool. We find out why the silos were built, and we’re introduced to some of the silo secrets that we were totally oblivious of in Wool. I found some of the story a bit slow. In particular, I found that I wasn’t too interested in the back story about how the silos came about. On the other hand, I loved the story of Jimmy in silo 17, whom we follow through the years. He’s also a (minor) character in Wool, and I very much enjoyed finding out how he became the person we meet in that first book.

Amazon says:

“In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platforms that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate. In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event. At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened. This is the second volume in the New York Times best-selling Wool series.”


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Number of pages: 570

First published: 2013

I got this: bought at a bookshop

Genre: Post-apocalyptic

 

Book read: Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade House by David MitchellMy first book of the year 2016. And a great read!

Slade House can only be reached through a gate in Slade Alley that is only visible some of the time. The house takes more space up than there is in the area, and people have been known to disappear ‘near Slade Alley’. Mysterious!

Every nine years, someone disappears. The person who investigates such an appearance will find nothing, unless he’s in the right place at the right time. And then he may disappear too.

A real page turner. With, as we are used to with Mitchell, references to other books by this author. Some are rather subtle, and I am bound to have missed a few. But a Dr. Marinus? Ah, yes! The ending was surprising, in a good way.

The publisher says:

“Born out of the short story David Mitchell published on Twitter in 2014 and inhabiting the same universe as his latest bestselling novel The Bone Clocks, this is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark and stormy night.

Turn down Slade Alley – narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you’re looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn’t quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies.

A stranger greets you by name and invites you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t.

This unnerving, taut and intricately woven tale by one of our most original and bewitching writers begins in 1979 and reaches its turbulent conclusion around Hallowe’en, 2015. Because every nine years, on the last Saturday of October, a ‘guest’ is summoned to Slade House. But why has that person been chosen, by whom and for what purpose? The answers lie waiting in the long attic, at the top of the stairs…”


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Number of pages: 234

First published: 2015

I got this: bought at local bookshop

Genre: Supernatural thriller

 

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