Category Archives: Fiction

My (not so) Perfect Life

9780812998269_p0_v5_s192x300Sophie Kinsella’s books always make me smile and no matter what the heroine endures, I know I am guaranteed a happy ending with the tall handsome – most of the time rich – hero. Her latest book – My (not so) Perfect Life – met my expectations -a frothy romance with a hint of wisdom.

Katie, a country English girl leaves the farm for a career in the big city, but London life is not as easy or glamorous as she envisioned. She lives in a small apartment with a web designer roommate who stores boxes of whey in the living room for a side business. Although she has a degree in design, her job at a marketing firm is confined to low level data input. After she gets fired, she returns to the farm to help her father and step- mother start a glamping business with glamorous yurts and homemade scones.

When her former Cruella-like boss arrives to vacation with her “perfect” family, Katie takes her revenge in a hilarious series of bespoke activities. Of course, the handsome hero arrives later and the action turns into an office politics nightmare.

Katie saves the day, reforms her boss, and, of course, gets the guy. Despite the antics and ridiculous plot twists, the book has a message – no one’s life is as good it may seem. An enjoyable and fast read, My (not so) Perfect Life will have you laughing and reaffirming life as an unending tale of possibilities – Bridget Jones style.

The Baileys Prize Announces Its Longlist on International Women’s Day

The Baileys Prize is the annual book award for fiction written by a woman.  Founded in 1996, the Prize was set up “to celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world.”

I am not familiar with most of the books – many have not yet been published in the United States.  I did start Atwood’s Hagseed, but did not finish; it was not as satisfying as Anne Tyler’s rendition of Taming of the Shrew in Vinegar Girl, but I may try again.  Bearskins was another book with a library due date before I could dent its seven hundred pages.  And Do Not Say We Have Nothing has been on my wish list since being shortlisted for the Man Booker.

Of the others nominated, a young girl with a horse appealed to me most – Gailskill’s The Mare, and I may start there.   The Lonely Hearts Hotel sounds appealing too.  Have you read any on the list?

The Longlist:

  • Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

Set in Nigeria, “Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage…Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife…Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant. Which, finally, she does–but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine…

  • The Power by Naomi Alderman

Girls rule the world – It’s science fiction, of course.   In a dystopian world where Its women develop the ability to release electrical jolts from their fingers.  “…teenage girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death. With this single twist, the four lives at the heart of Naomi Alderman’s extraordinary, visceral novel are utterly transformed.”

  • Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

In Atwood’s modern version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “the novel centres on a theater director named Felix who is exiled to teaching in a prison after losing his job with Makeshiweg Theatre, and begins to plot his revenge against those who wronged him.”

  • Little Deaths by Emma Flint

“In 1965 working-class Queens, NY, two children go missing and are later found strangled not far from home. The police immediately suspect their mother, Ruth Malone, single and working long hours…”

  • 51gjRDNJ-PL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_The Mare by Mary Gaitskill

“…the story of a Dominican girl, the Anglo woman who introduces her to riding, and the horse who changes everything for her.”

  • The Dark Circle by Linda Grant

“An East End teenage brother and sister living on the edge of the law have been ent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent.  They find themselves in the company of army and air force officers, a car salesman, a young university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the aristocracy and an American merchant seaman. They discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach and can be had only by inciting rebellion…”

  • The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

Set between 1994 and 1995, it follows 18-year-old Eily, a boozy ingénue, as she leaves her native Ireland to attend drama school in London. There, caught in whirl of excess and the shadow of IRA terrorism, she is mostly assigned stereotypically Irish bit parts, but finds herself captivated by a much older actor named Stephen, an ex-junkie estranged from his family and young daughter. Initially meeting without names, they embark on a tempestuous relationship that reveals the worst in both while offering Stephen a chance at redemption and Eily a future.”

  • Midwinter by Fiona Melrose

Father and Son, Landyn and Vale Midwinter, are men of the land. Suffolk farmers. Times are hard and they struggle to sustain their property, their livelihood and their heritage in the face of competition from big business. But an even bigger, more brutal fight is brewing: a fight between each other, about the horrible death of Cecelia, beloved wife and mother, in Zambia ten years earlier...

  • The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

“Hellsmouth, an indomitable Thoroughbred with the blood of Triple Crown winners in her veins, runs for the glory of the Forge family, one of Kentucky’s oldest and most powerful dynasties. Henry Forge has partnered with his daughter, Henrietta, in an endeavor of raw obsession: to breed the next superhorse, the next Secretariat. But when Allmon Shaughnessy, an ambitious young black man, comes to work on their farm, the violence of the Forges’ history and the exigencies of appetite are brought starkly into view. Entangled in fear, prejudice, and lust, the three tether their personal dreams of glory to the speed and grace of Hellsmouth.”

  • The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

“…tale of two prickly octogenarians: two women, one black and one white, neighbors who discover after 20 years of exchanging digs and insults that they might help each other.”

  • The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future. “

  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

“…takes place over a single year in the 1890s, in an Essex village where — if the rumours are to be believed — a monstrous sea creature skulks in the estuary, blamed for horrors from disembowelled livestock to a man’s corpse washing up on the marsh, his neck snapped…widow Cora Seagrave is patently relieved by the death of her unpleasant husband, a civil servant…accompanied by her socialist companion Martha… she leaves the capital for the wilds of Essex.

  • Barkskins by Annie Proulx

“…tells the story of two immigrants to New France, René Sel and Charles Duquet, and of their descendants. It spans over 300 years and witnesses the deforestation of the New World from the arrival of Europeans into the contemporary era of global warming…“barkskins,” are indentured servants, transported from Paris slums to the wilds of New France in 1693… to clear the land…”

  • First Love by Gwendoline Riley

“Neve is in her mid-thirties, living in London and married to an older man… past battles have left their scars. As Neve recalls the decisions that led her to this marriage, she describes other loves and other debts—her bullying father and her self-involved mother, a musician who played her, and a series of lonely flights from place to place…”


  • 9780393609882_p0_v2_s192x300Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

“...follows a 10-year-old girl and her mother who invite a Chinese refugee into their home…”  On the Man Booker shortlist.

  • The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

“Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem only a distant echo. An only child, he lives alone with Emilie, the mother he adores but who treats him with bitter severity. He begins an intense friendship with a Jewish boy his age, talented and mercurial Anton Zweibel, a budding concert pianist. The novel follows Gustav s family, tracing the roots of his mother s anti-Semitism and its impact on her son and his beloved friend… one who becomes a hotel owner, the other a concert pianist, The Gustav Sonata explores the passionate love of childhood friendship as it is lost, transformed, and regained over a lifetime…”

 

International Women’s Day

iwd-logo-portaiteps    The theme for this year’s annual International Women’s Day on March 8th is “Be Bold for Change,”  and women all over the world will be marking the day with festivals, book club discussions, conferences, concert performances, speaking events, and more. To celebrate women’s accomplishments politically, culturally, and socially, consider reading a book about and by women from around the world.

Here are a few ideas in fiction books; click on the title for my review:

baileys-womens-prize-for-fiction-2017  March 8th also has the distinction of being the day when the Baileys Prize (formerly known as the Orange Prize) longlist is announced.  The annual Prize targets fiction written by women, with past winners including Barbara Kingsolver’s  The Lacuna and Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife  This year’s longlist includes sixteen books  nominated to take the £30,000 award. The shortlist is announced April 3rd and the winner on June 7th.

Here are my predictions for inclusion on this year’s longlist.  Have you read any of them?

 

Liane Moriarty

With a mix of Sophie Kinsella, Maria Semple, and a little Sherlock Homes (with a nod to the Professor Moriarty), Liane Moriarty always delivers a satisfying story.  She is on the list of authors whose next books I anticipate as soon as the last is read.

Currently, the new HBO series – Big Little Lies – has a cast of well-known women, including Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, telling the tale of murder and ambition, with a sprinkling of self-doubt, and a large dose of bullying.  Thankfully, I forget most of the details of a book after I’ve read it – clearing my synapses for the next round of fiction – yet, watching the story unfold, I am grateful for having read the book first.  The vague flashbacks and inner thoughts in the televised version seem to make more sense.  I remember enough of the action and characters to be familiar but I do not remember the ending.   Like all her books, this one will be a surprise – again.

Happily, I found one of Moriarty’s earlier books on my shelf.  The Last Anniversary has all those familiar qualities  – romance and adventure, women working through issues, and a cliff-hanging mystery.  Two women, Connie and Rose, find a surprise when they accept an invitation to tea at the Munro house.  In addition to the warm marble cake on the table and the bloodstains on the floor, they find a baby girl.  They decide to name her Enigma and raise her as their own in their small town of Scribbly Gum Island.

The story revolves around the Munro Baby mystery and Sophie, a thirty-nine year ex-girlfriend who unexpectedly inherits the house from Connie; Enigma is now a grandmother, and the town mystery has become a tourist attraction.  Secrets are important in Moriarty’s books and every character in this story seems to have one.  Like all her books, The Last Anniversary is a page turner, and just when all the secrets seem to have been revealed, Moriarty adds one more on the last page.

Have you read Moriarty’s books?  Here is a list of my reviews:

My Tulips are Blooming

The seasons never seem to change where I live and most flowering trees and plants bloom year-round, but yearning for an old-time Spring, I bought some tulips.  With closed buds shivering inside a glassed refrigerator, those flowers spoke to me.  Sadly, they sat on my counter all day and night in a bowl of water,  still bound with yarn in their plastic wrapping.

After binge watching Elizabeth Bennett and her sister Jane cutting flowers in their garden in the Colin Firth version of “Pride and Prejudice,” I finally decided to arrange my flowers.  Unbound and recut, the tulips now refused to stand upright, drooping over the vase.  Their green leaves stood up but the red buds flopped over – still unopened.

thumbnail_img_3852The next morning I found them, now opening and bending upward to the light in a cluster of red, and today I saw this…

 Spring must be near.

Books I am reading:

  • The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
  • The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
  • Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen