19 May, 2015

Book Review: Dancing on Knives

From GoodreadsA damaged family and their generations of dangerous secrets
At twenty, Sara is tormented by an inexplicable terror so profound she hasn't left her home in five years. Like the mermaid in the fairytale her Spanish grandmother once told her, Sara imagines she is Dancing on Knives, unable to speak. She feels suffocated by her family, especially her father – the famous artist Augusto Sanchez – whose volcanic passions dominate their lives.
Then one stormy night, her father does not come home. His body is found dangling from a cliff face. Astonishingly, he is still alive, but the mystery of his fall can only be solved by the revelation of long-held family secrets.
At once a suspenseful murder mystery and a lyrical love story, Dancing on Knives is about how family can constrict and liberate us, how art can be both joyous and destructive, and how strength can be found in the unlikeliest places.

Thoughts: I ended up doing a bit of extra work shelving at a different library the other week. It's the largest library in the network I work in and it interesting to see how such a big space works. While shelving I came across this. I'd never seen or heard of it before so my immediate thought was it was brand new Kate Forsyth. I loved The Wild Girl so I immediately put it to one side to check out. 
Sitting on the train later I pulled it out, read the author's note and the apprehension started. Basically Dancing on Knives is an old book of Forysth's and has undergone many reincarnations in it's life. The scribblings of a sixteen year old, the thesis of a twenty six year old, a published novel under a different title. My misgivings came from the fact that when I've often gone back and read the earlier works of an author it becomes apparent why that book was not their break out novel. In fact it is often incredibly disappointing. Nevertheless, I resolved to give it a go.
First things first. If you have read and loved The Wild Girl, don't expect the same type of book. Dancing on Knives is completely different. Having said it's good. Not Wild Girl good, but worth reading. It's storyline follows Sara, a twenty year old held hostage by her inability to leave the house and by the family where she has been the mother figure since her own mother died. Her father's unpredictable mood swings clash with her older brother's need to provide some stability, leaving Sara in the middle trying to keep the peace and the family together.
Forsyth writes rich characters. You can see Sara's fears and apprehension, feel the tempest in the house when Augusto is raging, hear the tiredness and weariness in Joe's voice. At different stages through out the book you want to slap each of them, plus the other characters. 
Forsyth's writing is lyrical. poetic. 
Sara has often thought that most people seemed to live their lives only splashing about in the shallows. But she...she was dragged down into the fathomless depths again and again, where no light struck and hideous monsters of the deep swam. She tried so hard to stay where she could touch the sane with her feet. But always she was swept out, always she was sucked under.
You do start to despair of this family ever untangling itself, but Forsyth slowly and painfully brings them to a point where you can glimpse a possible happy future, if only they will grab it.

Dancing on Knives gets 3 stars!

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing


17 May, 2015

Book Review: The Girl on the Train

From GoodreadsRachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train… 

Thoughts: I was looking for a new audio book and this was one I knew I wanted to read, but also knew it was something that could be continually pushed back for others. I don't know about other audio listeners, but there are some books I'll happily listen to, but others have to be read. This was one I knew could go either way.
After all the comparisons to Gone Girl, I must admit I was a little bit wary. I enjoyed Gone Girl and usually find myself disappointed when one book is compared to another. Apart from the fact that they have similar writing styles I didn'tn find them comparable. 
Girl on the Train is told using three different voices - Rachel- a woman who is struggling over the end of her marriage two years ago, Anna - Rachel's ex husband's new wife and Megan - the girl who has gone missing. I must admit I did find myself questioning what each character told me. How reliable is their recount of what happens? Are they telling me the truth or simply putting the best spin on it? And I suppose in that way, I did keep comparing it to Gone Girl, wondering if I could trust what I was reading. Interestingly, I don't think I would have questioned as much is I hadn't read Gone Girl.
About half way through I found myself questioning my judgement of the characters. I was being particularly harsh on Anna, feeling she was being rather horrible towards Rachel. However, when I stopped  and thought about it, I could see where she was coming from. I needed to remind myself that I knew things about Rachel she didn't and if I just took into account what she knew, she was completely justified in her opinions. I did however continue to find her weak and easily exploited by Tom. Personally I would have rung the police long before she did!
At times I was equally frustrated with Rachel and her lack of control and inability to leave things alone, not call her ex, not go past the house. I also struggled with her desire to have back a man who cheated on her.
The Girl on the Train will mess with your mind. If you have read Gone Girl, you will find yourself feeling like you are in familiar territory, but not so familiar you feel like you have already read the book. You will find yourself questioning what the characters tell you. I will happily say if you liked Gone Girl, you will like Girl on the Train.

The Girl on the Train gets 4 stars!

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing

14 May, 2015

April in Review

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm feeling a bit like this at the moment.

The year is flying by at a ridiculous rate of knots.

April stats:

Kindle - 2                                     Library - 3
Book - 3                                       Own - 4
Audio - 2                                      Borrowed (non library) - 0
Fiction - 7                               
Non-fiction - 0

Female Author - 2                        New to Me Authors - 2
Male Author - 6
Australian Author - 0
No Australian authors this month, although I'm teetering about Ben Elton because he does live here now. Also the first month with no non-fiction.

My pick for this month is hard. I loved Two Brothers and Skullduggery Pleasant.

Our book group book for this month was my choice and I went with Two Brothers. It's a great book for a book group and we had a great discussion. Some of us enjoyed it more than others, which I value in a book group book. It's interesting to see how things you really thought enhanced the story were a negative for others. 

I finished it!! You can read my review here. While I'm glad I can now say I've read (or listened to) Anna Karenina, I don't think it's something I will read again. I have the movie at home to watch and I'm looking forward to that.

So that was April. According to GoodReads I'm still lagging behind on my target of 100 books for this year. Just as well I'm not overly worried! The Children's Book Council has released it's short lists so look out for the reviews of the younger readers and older reader books. I'll also do the picture books and the early childhood books, but have a bit of a different plan up my sleeve for them.

How was your April?