Sunday, 22 November 2015

Book reviews, by Maureen


Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult


My favourite fiction writer of the moment has produced yet another thought-provoking story which captured my heart as well as my imagination. The plight of elephants in Africa has been well documented, but to read about it whilst being thoroughly entertained by a story which embraces the paranormal, detective work and broken human relationships is a rare experience. Highly recommended.


The Business of the 21st Century, by Robert T. Kiyosaki

I rarely read business books ('Who moved my Cheese?' being the last one, a decade or so ago), but this one, and his famous Rich Dad, Poor Dad, had me fascinated. Robert Kiyosaki's theory that working hard at school to get a good job, then working hard for our money, earning our old age pension, saving up to have cash to invest in financial products, etc. is completely the wrong way to live our lives...this was, for me, a revelation. If we want to be rich, he says, we need to learn how to make our money work for us, not the other way round.


Whatever happened to Billy Parks, by Gareth  Roberts

Funny, heart breaking, and insightful. I love watching football and have often wondered what it must feel like to score a goal (having been inept in all matters sporty throughout my entire life).

In this book, Gareth Roberts does just that: he describes the elation so well that I actually felt it myself. A thoroughly enjoyable read for everyone, regardless of whether or not a fan of the game.


The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

Mesmerising, challenging, and absorbing. The way the author weaves the threads of this story together is exceptional. I guess that's why it won the Pulitzer Prize! It's a beautiful work of art that explores aspects of alienation and despair, not just in the plot, but in its very structure. It was a joy and a privilege to be present to such skill; long live literary fiction!


Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

Expect to be swept along by the drama of this roller-coaster of a novel. Over five hundred pages of beauty, horror, poignancy, tragedy and charm.

Verghese takes us from India to Ethiopia and the USA, revealing intricate details of surgery, rebellion, war, passion, faith and love.  It is not often that a book can lift your spirit to new heights, and this one is right up there with the likes of  Shantaram and similar great novels.

An unforgettable read

Maureen Moss


The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Quite simply a fabulous book. The story is narrated by a dog, a dog with more insight into being human than many of our own species could hope for.

This book has everything: humour, heartbreak, philosophy, excitement, and most of all, love. And for me, a bonus: I had never realised just how demanding car racing could be!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

Why does such an unlikely story work so well? I found myself asking this question over and over again as I accompanied Harold on his strange pilgrimage.

What is the book about? In short, a middle aged man sets off to post a letter and ends up walking without money, proper shoes, map, or food, for nearly 90 days, towards a destination over 600 miles away whose exact location he doesn’t even know. His mission: to save a life.

 After several of the early pages wondering where on earth this story was going, I found myself drawn towards Harold, his wife, and the terminally ill woman he has decided to visit. Curiosity got the better of me and before long I was turning pages avidly, needing to know the outcome. Would he make it in time? What damage had he done to his marriage? What was the mystery surrounding his estranged son?

 And it gradually dawned on me that this story is about living an extraordinary life, about having the courage to live in the unknown, to commit, and to take action, no matter how ‘dull and ordinary’ one’s circumstances are.

 Harold is joined and subsequently deserted by a motley crew of well-wishers and fame seekers. Even Dog, who had, as Harold said, ‘chosen to walk with Harold for a while, and then it had chosen to stop, and walk instead with the young girl. Life was like that.’

 To quote Alfred Hickling in The Guardian, Rachel Joyce successfully conveys ‘profound emotions in simple, unaffected language’.

 And for me, therein lies both its charm and its success.


A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

As you know, I have been fascinated by quantum physics for the last sixteen years, throughout which both family and friends have laughed at me for my bizarre ideas and the whacky theories I have shared. So to read a book by a well-respected author (Ruth Ozeki has won two literary awards) which explores in a fiction the ideas of eminent physicists such as Schroedinger, Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, as well as the thoughts of Zen masters, was sheer bliss.

I guess by now many of you will have already switched off. Yes, this is literary fiction. It won’t keep you awake at night turning pages to find out who dunnit, though you will definitely want to know what happened next. It is a truly human, warm and tender story which weaves its way through two distinct cultures and time zones. The two protagonists are Nao and Ruth (the author? Well, the husband has the same name as her husband). Nao is a depressed and bewildered teenage Japanese girl and Ruth a Canadian novelist, whose day to day life is interrupted when she finds a bag on the beach containing the diary of Nao, presumably swept away in the tsunami of 2011.

The story itself enters and leaves real life, as historical references are interspersed with ghosts and Zen sayings, and brings us to question the very nature of reality, of time and of the universe (or multiverse?) in which we exist.

Truly intriguing, inspiring and touching.


That Immortal Jukebox Sensation, by Gareth Roberts
Looking for an entertaining holiday read? This will keep you laughing from the minute you pick it up.

The brilliant Gareth Roberts has created characters we can all relate to. His hero Richie Strafe wants to achieve immortality by killing his one-time rival (who just happens to be a world famous rock star), but he becomes embroiled in the unlikeliest of legal assignments, leading him to encounter both psychopaths and strippers, to doubt his humanity and fear for his own life. Well, sort of. Grab some refreshments, get comfortable, and enjoy! You’re in for a treat……




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