Archive for the 'Contemporary' Category

Book Review: Beautiful Messy Love by Tess Woods

I don’t usually read romance, but I heard so many good things about this book from people I know that I decided to give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed.

Beautiful Messy Love is the story of two couples, Nick and Anna, and Lily and Toby, whose lives are interwoven in multiple, complicated ways. Nick and Anna meet in the café where Anna works, and seem an unlikely match – a football star and a refugee. Lily and Toby meet in a hospital cafeteria with the most awful timing – while Toby is supporting his wife through the end stages of cancer. Each character is struggling with their own tragedies, disappointments and failings, and must overcome prejudice and heartbreak to make things work.

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The story is told from the point of view of each of the characters, alternating between chapters, and it works well. Each character has a distinct voice, and the reader gets an insight into each person’s perspective of the situations that arise. The reader feels for each and every one of them. As evident by the title, their lives and loves are not simple. But it seems destined to be.

 

If I had any criticism for this book, it is that, while the characters are well drawn, they are somewhat larger-than-life. Nick is not just a professional football player, but the star of the team upon who the Premiership depends. Anna is not just a refugee, but the daughter of a strong female presidential candidate from her homeland, and a world champion swimmer as well. It makes the characters a little less relatable initially, but as the story unfolds, the reader still becomes invested in the characters and feels their pain.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it, not just for romance readers, but for anyone looking to escape for a while. A great holiday read.

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Book Review: About Grace by Anthony Doerr

About Grace, by Anthony Doerr, is the story of David Winkler, a scientist and a man with an unusual gift; prophetic dreams. The story starts out as Winkler (as he is consistently referred to in the book) flies to Alaska to determine the fate of his daughter, Grace. Twenty-five years earlier, having dreamt that Grace died in a flood while his was trying to rescue her, he abandoned his wife and infant daughter, fleeing to a remote Caribbean Island in an attempt to prevent the dream from coming true. What ensues is the story of his life as he seeks to come to terms with his actions, never quite certain whether they saved his daughter’s life or not.

Doerr’s prose is languid and evocative. The pace is leisurely and contemplative and the detail almost overwhelming at times. There are beautiful descriptions and explanations of snowflakes, shells, stars and insect habitation, as well as the settings of Alaska, Ohio and the Caribbean that place the reader firmly in Winkler’s world. However I did not find David Winkler to be a likeable character. His angst and indecision throughout the book, his unwillingness to help himself, combined with his social ineptness and his unerring ability to do the wrong thing was frustrating, and I did not feel myself empathetic towards him. While the story comes around in an arc to a satisfying conclusion, I was left feeling that Winkler’s was a life wasted, not by circumstance, although that was the inciting incident, but by his own character.

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room, by Emma Donoghue, is unusual, moving, and somewhat haunting. Told from the perspective of Jack, a 5 year-old boy, whose world is comprised of a single room, the soundproofed, reinforced garden shed in which his mother has been held captive since the age of 19. Having been told that Room, as he calls it, is the entirety of the real world, that he and his mother and ‘Old Nick’ are the only real humans, and that everything outside of Room is outer space, when circumstances force his mother to tell him the truth about the world, he greets it with anger and disbelief. Gradually, however, he comes to accept this unlikely truth, as he sees it, and agrees to a plan to help the both of them escape.

When I heard about this book, I immediately wanted to read it. And I wanted to like it. I expected to love it. I must say, however, that I found it hard to get into and almost gave up on it.

Jack’s voice, as a 5 year-old, was not convincing to me. Donoghue did a great job of keeping Jack’s perspective, of viewing things from the eyes of a boy who knew nothing of the world, who had never had to walk on an uneven surface, who had never worn shoes, who had never seen a dog or a tree, had never spoken to anyone other than his mother, who had never felt rain on his face or sunlight on his skin. However I found the language Jack used hard to read. A real mix of immature and unusual grammar, use of proper nouns for common items, personal pronouns for inanimate objects and misuse of verbs like ‘switch off’ for going to sleep and ‘waking up’ for lamps being turned on. Jack knows what sarcasm is, uses words like hideous and hilarious, can read Alice in Wonderland and knows that twice ten makes twenty. The language didn’t seem to fit, and I struggled with it at first.

I did read on, though, and I’m glad I did. As Jack and Ma escape into the real world, Jack experiences everything for the first time, and his wonder and fear and longing for the safety of ‘Room’, his mother’s prison, is endearing and heartbreaking. We journey with Jack as he learns to navigate the world, from windows and stairs and travelators to paying for items in a store, conversations with adults and his first interaction with another child. Jack’s view of the world is unique and insightful, his emotions raw and his imagination unending. The book left an impression that stayed with me for a long time. 3 ½ stars.


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