Posted in BOOK REVIEWS, Uncategorized

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay, and her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January of 2017.

DESCRIPTION:

Fall 2016 Library Journal Editors’ Pick

It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

REVIEW:

The cover was the first thing that attracted me to this novel. Not only was it sophisticated and subtle, but it promised to bring something more to the table. I loved the simplicity of it, palette and most of all the faceless woman with the red lipstick… It felt like a read about an iconic woman who will engage and move me.

Little did I know that the description stated exactly that. Lilian Boxfish Takes a Walk is a profoundly deep and ground shaking read. It is partially based on the life of Margaret Fishback, the highest paid female poet and advertising copywriter of the 1930’s who actually worked for R. H. Macy’s. I wouldn’t put it in the biography section, thou, because it greatly influenced by fiction and full of wisdom that can only be transported on paper through imagination.

The main character/protagonist is Lilian Boxfish, a woman I bonded with so easily that I was caught by surprise. She was a strong, independent career woman, but what is more is she remained true to her ways and beliefs even at age 86, when she the pain plot line actually revolves. I enjoyed her flow of thought and her moments of sassyness; but most of all I find interest in the interconnections she builds between the stories random strangers tell her on her way dinner and events that happened in her own life.

I have old parents, you know, my Dad is 70, and he was a grand man himself…The way he tells stories is more or less identical, so I want to loudly applause Mrs Rooney doing an excellent job in conveying this lifelike ability to her character. While reading I couldn’t shake this Canturbuty tales feeling that smiled at me in-between the lines of the novel. I was a companion to this wonderful, respectful and full of life true lady, on her pilgrimage to memory and youth. I wish there more fictional examples for this rank nowadays, it would be way easier for young girls to pick idols and model themselves as self-respecting individuals, who know their own true value and drive.

I admit finding some similarities between the two of us, especially when it comes to life philosophy: “things are the way they are”. Criminals and muggers in the city? So be it! Didn’t stop Lillian from walking! Mrs Boxfish takes life as it comes, and embraces it fully. If I allow my self to quote another full of wisdom favourite of mine:

“Newt Scamander : “My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.””
― J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

Lastly, I think it is in order to say that this book is for all people, I would never risk restrict it to women, because the men out there will benefit greatly from reading it. It is an easy 5 star for me. I wish I could forget it completely, so can experience reading it for the first time again.5FOXGIVEN

Posted in DQUIDNUNC WATCHES MOVIES

Dreamworks Trolls – A Movie Review

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A BIT OF A HISTORY:

DreamWorks Animation Studios should be a case-study examination on the rise and fall of a once proud company. Producing their first film back in 1998 with Antz, DreamWorks slowly became a force to reckon with a string of successful features, including Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon. At its height, the studio was at the top of its game, being one of the top tier animation studios out there, jostling for the #1 position with upcoming rival studio Pixar Animation studios. Unfortunately, the company has faced hard times (changes over distribution and company ownership), cutting jobs within and producing two movies a year instead of three. Even with popular recent hits like How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3, their animated the feature films themselves have become less-than desirable, with mediocre hits like Turbo, Home, and Rise of the Guardians, which either faced poor reviews by fans / critics or underperformed in box office projections. And now, with Disney back on the scene (producing more favorable hits) as well other animated studios, it seems DreamWorks the “old dinosaur” of animated world. With the success of their first 2016 film (Kung Fu Panda 3), DreamWorks now prepares (hopes) for another hit with their new movie Trolls. Does this latest cartoon endeavor find its charm and box office success or its another misfire from DreamWorks?

HOW THE MOVIE CAME TO BE:

Trolls is a 2016 American 3D computer-animated musical adventure romantic comedy film based on the Troll dolls created by Thomas Dam. The film was directed by Mike Mitchell and co-directed by Walt Dohrn,written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger and based on a story by Erica Rivinoja. The film features the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden and Gwen Stefani. The film revolves around two trolls on a quest to save their village from destruction by the Bergen, creatures who eat trolls.

Produced as the 33rd animated feature film by DreamWorks Animation, the film premiered on October 8, 2016, at the BFI London Film Festival and was theatrically released in the United States on November 4, 2016, by 20th Century Fox.The film received generally positive reviews from critics and has grossed $338 million worldwide against its $125 million budget.

DreamWorks announced plans for a film based on the Troll toyline as early as 2010. This version was to be written by Adam Wilson and his wife MelanieBy 2012, Chloë Grace Moretz had already been cast in the female lead role and Jason Schwartzman was reported to have been offered the male lead. In September 2012, 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation announced that the film with the working title Trolls would be released on June 5, 2015, with Anand Tucker set to direct the film, written by Wallace Wolodarsky and Maya Forbes.

By April 2013, DreamWorks Animation had acquired the intellectual property for the Trolls franchise from the Dam Family and Dam Things. Having “big plans for the franchise,” DreamWorks Animation became the exclusive worldwide licensor of the merchandise rights, except for Scandinavia, where Dam Things remains the licensor. In May 2013, the film was pushed back for a year to November 4, 2016. The same month, DreamWorks Animation announced that Mike Mitchell and Erica Rivinoja has been hired as a director and screenplay writer to “reimagine” the film as a musical comedy, which will present the origin of the Trolls’ colorful hair.On June 16, 2014, Anna Kendrick joined the cast to voice Poppy, a princess.On September 15, 2015, Deadline.com reported that Justin Timberlake will voice a character named Branch.Timberlake previously worked with DreamWorks Animation as the voice of Arthur “Artie” Pendragon in Shrek the Third in 2007. The full cast announced their respective roles via announcements on Twitter on January 6, 2016.

TRAILER:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyjm5VQ11TQ

WHAT I THOUGHT:

Now that is a new thing for me, so be gentle in your judgement, I have never reviewd a movie before, what’s left for an animation, but I promise to be brave and speak my mind as clearly as possible. Trolls provides the right mixture of approachable material as well as animated silliness. It is intended for kids after all, so that is to be expected.

Speaking of silly, the film’s humor is more gear towards the young crowd (as is the entire film). Thus, most kids will find the movie funny as some adults might even give a good chuckle here and there. For the most part, the film, much like the Trolls themselves, the film is light and colorful. The animation style is also interesting and pleasing to the eye. Colors are extremely bright and vibrant and the film as interesting style of animation that has a more “felt” (the fabric material) in its presentation, which definitely makes the film standout against the classic CG animated nowadays. The actual design of a lot of the film’s characters are quite interesting as well as creative from the small, plucky Trolls to the big monstrous but still kid friendly Bergens and every other creature in between. It echoed animated series from the 80s such as Le Fruittis and The Glo Friends.

I was particularly happy about the soundtrack choices made, they were all gold favouites from my years of growing up. That part was executed brilliantly.The songs are quite catchy, a combination of original songs and popular (or at least recognizable) hits from music’s history past. Some might argue that the film uses too much songs, but I personally didn’t mind as it added the overall enjoyment of the feature.

What I didn’t enjoy was the plot line. The overall story was enjoyable, but some crucial moments that could have been cliff-hangers were overdone in a sloppy manner which robbed my excitement. By saying this I really hardly try to keep in mind that complicated plotlines are not made for age 5-10, but still I feel that compared to Dreamworks’older movies this was a downfall.  The messafe of the movie is not complex or sophisticated like Finding Dory or Zootopia, Trolls centers around the ideas of finding your own personal happiness, overcoming hardships to accomplish goals, and (of course) the always universal one of “being yourself”. Like said, while these are important moral / lessons to learn, Trolls doesn’t go beyond its surface level to present these messages (nothing deep like Inside Out), but, given the movie’s overall lightheartedness, its effective in its deliver to its youthful viewers, elevating the film’s final product.

Overall I mark it as an easy to watch, not-get-you-too-occupied movie for a laidback passtime.

4hipposgiven

Posted in BOOK REVIEWS

The White City: A Novel by Karolina Ramqvist, Saskia Vogel

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Karolina Ramqvist is a Swedish journalist and writer.

Ramqvist has been the chief editor of the magazine Arena and critic for Dagens Nyheter. She became widely known when she published a private letter from Ulf Lundell in the anthology Fittstim. She has also appeared in the magazine Bang. Ramqvist is married to journalist Fredrik Virtanen.

Karolina Ramqvist is the granddaughter of the Svedberg.

DESCRIPTION:

Karolina Ramqvist has been hailed as “one of Sweden’s truly interesting young writers” (Dagens Nyheter) with “a great talent for creating imagery and building atmosphere” (Dagbladet) and she’s a powerful literary voice on contemporary issues of sexuality, commercialization, isolation, and belonging. An immediate bestseller upon publication, The White City is an arresting and intimate novel of betrayal and empowerment from a bold, fearless writer.

Karin knew what she was getting herself into when she fell for John, the high-flying criminal and love of her life. But she never imagined things would turn out like this: John is now gone and the coke-filled parties, seemingly endless flow of money, and high social status she previously enjoyed have been replaced by cut telephone lines, cut heat, and cut cash. All that remains of Karin’s former life is the big house he bought for her—and his daughter, the child Karin once swore she would never bring into their dangerous world. Now Karin is alone with baby Dream, and the old promise of “the family” has proved alarmingly empty. With the authorities zeroing in on organised crime, John’s shady legacy is catching up with her, and the house is about to be seized. Over the course of a few nerve-wracking days, Karin is forced to take drastic measures in order to claim what she considers rightfully hers.

A slow-burning psychological thriller with a sophisticated, dreamlike atmosphere, The White City is both the portrayal of one woman’s struggle to pull herself up from the paralysing depths of despair, and an unflinching examination of what it means to lose control—over your body, your life, and your fate.

REVIEW:
I  do believe that at least at one point in her life a woman is both fascinated and petrified by the idea of having a baby. Until four years ago, I was almost certain in my own plan: once I hit 30 I will adopt one and that will be all… I will adopt. Things have changed  now and I still want to adopt, but that is not my only option.
Therefore, this novel captivated my interested from the very description. I was reading away, the recounting in minute detail of a day centered on feeding her daughter, taking a shower, changing diapers, and napping should have been dull as dishwater, but was so rich in mood and detail, so brilliantly written, that I was captured. The pages flew by, there’s a constant tension, a creeping unease. A very strong read that moves the deepest core of the human soul.
This novel is utterly unputdownable. You can’t help but read on, wondering how Karin is going to turn this around and figure out a way for her and her daughter to survive. Gritty and real.4FOXGIVEN
Posted in BOOK REVIEWS

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent a year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to guiding horse trips. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.

DESCRIPTION:

A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

REVIEW:

The writing is lush and glorious. The story is hypnotic. The characters are complex and compelling, from the young heroine to the (evil or misguided?) “holy man” and demons. The author flawlessly blends the harsh reality of life in 14th Century Russia with folklore and fantasy. There’s even a wicked stepmother, but she’s a woman with internal demons of her own, unlike Vasya, the young, free-spirited heroine. Vasya, like her new stepmother, sees demons and spirits, but Vasya seeks to know them, to understand them, not deny them. Some of them, in turn, help her, and Vasya will need help. She must fight for her freedom and her life – her stepmother and the villagers believe she is a witch – while she alone sees the evil encroaching closer and closer to the heart of the village. It is as if an epic battle between good and evil will take place in their small village in the very cold, very far north. This young, small heroine is to others just a girl who, like all girls, must be married off or sent to a convent, giving her a choice of one cage or another, while she knows she must stay – for now — and protect her family as best she can.

This is a wonderful book, hard to put down. The pages almost turn themselves. The descriptions of nature, especially, are so sumptuous, I wish I could quote some here. Better to read the book and find them in context.

Honest to God, it was like reading LOTR all over again. I am in frenzy about this lovely read. I have always been fascinated with Russia’s folklore and nature and this novel brought so much more to the table than I expected. It will be loved both be adults and children.

The Bear and the Nightingale has been suggested to fans of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and Deathless by Catherynne Valente. I was happily smitten by the book and would recommend it to both a Young Adult and Adult reading audience. If you’re fond of retellings and folklore mixed with historical fiction, you might enjoy this book as much as I did.

5FOXGIVEN

Posted in BOOK REVIEWS

A Little Book for New Philosophers Paul Copan

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Paul Copan (born September 26, 1962) is a Christian theologian, analytic philosopher, apologist, and author. He is currently a professor at the Palm Beach Atlantic University and holds the endowed Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics. He has written and edited over 25 books in the area of philosophy of religion, apologetics, theology, science & religion, and the historicity of Jesus Christ. He has contributed many articles to professional journals and has written many essays for edited books. For six years he served as the president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

From 1980-1984, he attended Columbia International University and earned a B.A. degree in biblical studies. Copan attended Trinity International University, where he received his M.A. in philosophy of religion, as well as his M.Div. At Trinity International. Copan received the Prof. C.B. Bjuge Award for a thesis that “evidences creative scholarship in the field of Biblical and Systematic Theology.”

In May 2000, Copan received his Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His dissertation topic was “The Moral Dimensions of Michael Martin’s Atheology: A Critical Assessment.

DESCRIPTION:

What’s the point of studying philosophy when we have theology? Is philosophy anything more than a preparation for apologetics?

Often called “theology’s handmaid,” philosophy has sometimes suffered from an inferiority complex in the church. Many Christians see little point in it at all. But as Paul Copan contends, it is possible to affirm theology’s preeminence without diminishing the value and contribution of philosophy.

In A Little Book for New Philosophers, Copan offers a concise introduction to the study of philosophy. Aimed at newcomers, this brief overview is both a survey of philosophy’s basic aims and categories and an apology for its proper function in the life of the Christian. “By God’s grace,” Copan writes, “philosophy can enhance our understanding and worship of God . . . and assist us in defending the coherence of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

REVIEW:

This is the first time I come across Copan’s writing, therefore I humbly state that I am a complete novice in theological criticism. I picked up the book on the advise of my boyfriend who studies theology and is very knowledgeable on the topic. He said I quote: “In order to understand were my patience and tolerance come from you need to understand who I think.”

Mind you  a man’s mind is a complete mystery to the mere mortal women out there, yours truly included, so I was definitely intrigued to learn more about  the opposite gender.

In short, the book is a beginners guide to philosophy, most of the information that I found in it I was vaguely roughly familiar with, what I loved about it, though, was the smooth language, the easy with which Copen gently introduces you to theory, terminology and basic tools to approach the topic.

I always tend to admire such talent and skill, for I am, sadly, I very poor teacher and my explaining skills are, well, let’s call them non-existent for lack of a more drastic word. After reading this small, but in the same time very grand book, I understand why my boyfriend suggested I should start with it. You see Copen, he focuses on philosophically inclined Christians who are fearful or cynical about philosophy. He contends that philosophy done right can benefit our understanding and worship of God. And after a brief discussion with my friends who are believer( unlike me) I believe it is save to say that I have gained knowledge at a new level of perceiving religion and belief in general.

I will be completely honest here, I tend to dismiss most of the fanatic believers with a gesture of mere tolerance, for they have made their choice and they do have their reasoning behind it. I never agreed, thou, that one should  be devoted to an entity, because at the end of the day, after I have met numerous bad Christians ( here I mean, people who hide behind the safety of their religion, while not taking responsibility for their actions), I have concluded that as and atheist I am a better person, than they will ever be.

Copen, managed to help me see the other side. His book is targeting the intelligent Christians, who have a deep understanding of God and how the whole belief shenanigans work. This book forced me to put aside my skepticism and open my eyes to perceive another cast of believers, who indeed are people more attuned with the way religion fits in reality. I found that extremely refreshing.

5FOXGIVEN

Posted in BOOK REVIEWS

The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Melanie Wallace was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, and now lives with her husband in Myloi, an agrarian village below the Ohi mountain range in Greece, and in Paris.

Wallace’s novel “The Housekeeper” was longlisted for the 2007 Orange Prize.

DESCRIPTION:

An unforgettable novel about a young woman and her infant son, abandoned at a seaside motel in New England, and the secrets of the townspeople who provide them with shelter.

When June arrives on the coast of New England, baby in arms, an untrustworthy man by her side, Mabel—who rents them a cabin—senses trouble. A few days later, the girl and her child are abandoned.  June is soon placed with Mabel’s friend, Iris, in town, and her life becomes entwined with a number of locals who have known one another for decades: a wealthy recluse with a tragic past; a widow in mourning; a forsaken daughter returning for the first time in years, with a stranger in tow; a lawyer, whose longings he can never reveal; and a kindly World War II veteran who serves as the town’s sage. Surrounded by the personal histories and secrets of others, June finds the way forward for herself and her son amid revelations of the others’ pasts, including loves—and crimes—from years ago.

In vivid, nuanced prose, Melanie Wallace—“a writer with a tender regard for the marginal, the missing and the lost”*—explores the time-tested bonds of a small community, the healing power of friendship and love, and whether the wrongs of the past can ever be made right.  * Hilary Mantel

REVIEW:

What’s better than a cosy nook, a good book and a cup of cocoa when outside the snowing is silently covering the world and changing the destiny of all of us? I am so lucky to have read this wonderful novel at the very beginning of 2017… And it is so close to its publishing date that I am enthralled for you guys to be able to read it.

It is for sure one of the best reads I have had recently, furthermore, it marks 2017 as one of the best years to come in my adult reading life! I barely can wait for the next jewel to appear magically in my hands.

Mrs Wallace has the skills of magic and the tongue of a storyteller! I am forever grateful for the joy she brought to my heart with her poetical writing. Every word, every phrase, every sentence is a block of spicy chocolate melting  in your mouth… better yet: you know the effect of a good old glass of scotch after a hard day of work at the very end of the week… This is what this book is all about. It not only soothes your nerves, but also leaves your whole being lingering with nostalgia and a sense of beautiful sadness.

In short the novel tells a number of stories of heartbroken characters, each carrying burdens of their own. I love to read about damaged people, who find the strength in them to lift themselves up, because life is more-often-than-not a hard travel, and sometimes when I indulge in a novel like this one, I find it easier to continue the fight.

It was such a profound read… I closed it gently, put it on the ground, and stared at it for a couple of minutes… I am still struggling to find the words to best describe it. Unique is one of them… Poetic – another… Strong is the third that comes to mind, but D**n it I did not expect to be that much influenced by it.

So go ahead guys and give it a go, you’ll not regret it!

5FOXGIVEN

Posted in BOOK REVIEWS

The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Morgan McCarthy was born in Berkshire, UK, where she still lives. She has worked in a supermarket, a small independent bookstore, and, most recently, as a media analyst.

DESCRIPTION:

Morgan McCarthy’s THE HOUSE OF BIRDS is a beautiful and bewitching story of love, war and second chances that will be adored by readers of Kate Morton, Louisa Young and Virginia Baily.

Oliver has spent years trying to convince himself that he’s suited to a life of money making in the city, and that he doesn’t miss a childhood spent in pursuit of mystery, when he cycled around the cobbled lanes of Oxford, exploring its most intriguing corners.

When his girlfriend Kate inherits a derelict house – and a fierce family feud – she’s determined to strip it, sell it and move on. For Oliver though, the house has an allure, and amongst the shelves of discarded, leather bound and gilded volumes, he discovers one that conceals a hidden diary from the 1920s.

So begins a quest: to discover the identity of the author, Sophia Louis. It is a portrait of war and marriage, isolation and longing and a story that will shape the future of the abandoned house – and of Oliver – forever.

REVIEW:

The House of Birds is a beautifully written book with one of the most spectacular covers I’ve seen in a long time.  I am a sucker for a pretty cover, but this one really does catch your eye and dares you to ignore it’s alluring charm. It is a bit nostalgic and it perfectly fits to the mood of the novel.

Morgan McCarthy weaves together tales from the past and present so eloquently,  the stories flow well together so that the reader is experiencing the mystery that Oliver is searching for the answers to but also the memories attached to the items within the old house and how they relate to Sophia Louis.

Oliver’s search is captivating reading, the memories he unearths add a richness to both the past and the present.  The interwoven narration from Sophia gives a wonderful insight in to her character, the oppressive societal struggles for women in this time and several emotive topics are written with care and sympathy where necessary, but also detailed to show that McCarthy has done her research to ensure authenticity.   Each character in this has their own appealing qualities (or unappealing as the case may be), they are are carefully and thoughtfully constructed.

The vivid descriptions in this book are spectacular, the detail given about the house means that the reader is more than able to envision the setting clearly.  There is great care given to the description of people also, the description of a young Kate when Oliver sees her cycling on her way home from school conjures a crystal clear image of the young girl, with hair so perfect on her white bike, and the small detail of her catching his eye ‘like a unicorn’ gives the reader a small insight into the flowing prose awaiting them later in the book.

McCarthy’s writing is a delight to read, so natural and expressive which truly makes this a delight to read.

4FOXGIVEN

Posted in BOOK REVIEWS

The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Leda Grey is novel about an actress who has lived in a crumbling cliff top house for more than half a century, until she confides her story to the journalist, Ed Peters … who rapidly finds himself immersed inside her dark and eerie world.

She has also written three Victorian novels, the first of which – The Somnambulist – was shortlisted for the UK National Book Awards, featured on Channel 4’s TV Book Club, and has been optioned for TV/film.

Elijah’s Mermaid, features the hypocrisy in Victorian art and literature. It has brothels, asylums, and freak shows…not forgetting the mermaids!

The Goddess and the Thief is an ‘oriental gothic’, with Indian Maharajahs, Hindu gods and sacred diamonds … including candlelit seances which are held in English drawing rooms.

Her website is: www.essiefox.co.uk

She blogs as The Virtual Victorian, The Eclectic Edwardian, and The Fiction Fox.

You can find her on Twitter as @essiefox, and on Facebook as Essie Fox Books.

DESCRIPTION:

A bewitching novel about an enigmatic silent film actress, and the volatile love affair that left her a recluse for over half a century – for fans of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier.

During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the Brighton Lanes. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey.

Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living – now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film. As Beauvois’s muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect.

But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality when Beauvois suspected a love affair between Leda and her leading man. A horrific accident left Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century – until Ed Peters finds her and hears the secrets of her past, resulting in a climax more haunting than any to be found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois.

REVIEW:

I was captivated by the description of this novel… I simply had to have it, had endure it, had sink deep into the world of the story. I am a devoted fanatic to the era, therefore my first fear was whether Fox will be able to approach it correctly, but just after a few paragraphs I was sure: this will not be a problem. Fox created a magical world from the silver screen a world of never ending summer, filled with ladybirds that swarmed everywhere.

This is a very atmospheric read. I enjoyed being immersed in this world of dissolving glamour; where you just sense that everything is slowly and surely, waning away. This is a novel of secrets, jealousy, love and obsession. A very good read and an interesting historical novel. It fitted right into my Christmas nostalgic mood.

I love her speech. I love Fox’s use of language and her beautiful, lyrical prose.

Each chapter begins with a quote from Shakespeare and very cleverly create an ominous sense that something deeply unpleasant lurks in the shadows of the house and of Leda’s past. The quotes were very effective in creating suspense and tension to the unraveling story.

Fox then switches to italics and we are privy to Leda’s story. Her voice is strong and provides a good contrast to that of Ed’s. Again, Leda’s passages are exquisitely written. They are engaging and intriguing as well as full of metaphors, connotations and analogies.

It is a great book and it is impossible not to want to gallop to the end and reveal all of Leda’s secrets. Just read it. You’ll love it.5FOXGIVEN

Posted in BOOK REVIEWS

Everybody’s Fool (Sully #2) by Richard Russo

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

RICHARD RUSSO is the author of seven previous novels; two collections of stories; and Elsewhere, a memoir. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which like Nobody’s Fool was adapted to film, in a multiple-award-winning HBO miniseries

DESCRIPTION:

Richard Russo, at the very top of his game, now returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters he created in Nobody’s Fool.

The irresistible Sully, who in the intervening years has come by some unexpected good fortune, is staring down a VA cardiologist’s estimate that he has only a year or two left, and it’s hard work trying to keep this news from the most important people in his life: Ruth, the married woman he carried on with for years . . . the ultra-hapless Rub Squeers, who worries that he and Sully aren’t still best friends . . . Sully’s son and grandson, for whom he was mostly an absentee figure (and now a regretful one). We also enjoy the company of Doug Raymer, the chief of police who’s obsessing primarily over the identity of the man his wife might’ve been about to run off with, before dying in a freak accident . . . Bath’s mayor, the former academic Gus Moynihan, whose wife problems are, if anything, even more pressing . . . and then there’s Carl Roebuck, whose lifelong run of failing upward might now come to ruin. And finally, there’s Charice Bond—a light at the end of the tunnel that is Chief Raymer’s office—as well as her brother, Jerome, who might well be the train barrelling into the station.

Everybody’s Fool is filled with humour, heart, hard times and people you can’t help but love, possibly because their various faults make them so stridently human. This is classic Russo—and a crowning achievement from one of the greatest storytellers of our time.

REVIEW:

“We don’t forgive people because they deserve it,” she said. “We forgive them because we deserve it.”

This Christmas I needed a lot of wisdom, in fact, the deeper I am sinking into my late twenties the more reflective I have become. But it is the very demanding nature of reflection that takes its toll on me. Therefore, I really enjoyed reading Everybody’s Fool. It is full of life, humour and advise that all of us need.

This sequel to Nobody’s Fool returns us to the blue collar town of Bath in upstate New York. A change in his circumstances from the previous book has made Donald Sullivan relatively prosperous with no need to work the kind of back breaking jobs he’d done for most of his life, but at 70 he’s just received some very bad news about his health. Sully’s old nemesis, Douglas Raymer, is now the police chief, but no one respects him including Raymer himself. His wife died just as she was about to leave him for another man, and Raymer is obsessed with learning the identity of this guy by using the only clue he has, a remote control for a garage door opener.

Despite plenty of buffoonery and mishaps nursed for humour, Russo paints these characters with a warm heart, and most are lovable at some level. They evolve through a series of crises that appear to be a part of a larger jinx that affects the whole town. A lot of the shame in being a fool has to do with perception of the judgement of others. For the town, its downhill economy is made more painful by the contrast with neighbouring Schuyler, whose newspaper largely features stories of the misfortunes that befall Bath. (After a wall collapses in a rehab project, Gus asks: “How come shit like this never happens in Schuyler?”, and a policeman from there answers: “There’s an ordinance against it”). The overall dynamic of the tale has to do with how to live with the limitations, foibles, and secret passions at the individual and community level and not succumb to madness and total despair from their consequences.

Time will tell if this will become a classic. It sits pretty well for me as a less moralistic, blue collar alternative to Bellow’s “The Adventures of Augie March” and Updike’s “Rabbit Run.” It is a sequel to “Nobody’s Fool”, but I, like most people, have only dim memories of reading that novel 20-plus years ago (i.e. I feel it unnecessary to read that one first).

It already won my heart!5FOXGIVEN

Posted in BOOK REVIEWS

Final Girls by Riley Sager

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley Sager is a writer, editor and graphic designer. Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

In addition to writing, Riley enjoys reading, movies and baking.

Riley’s first novel, FINAL GIRLS, will be published in 2017 in the United States, the United Kingdom and more than a dozen territories around the world.

DESCRIPTION:

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

“The Final Girls need you. . . . The Final Girls are tough, everything survivors should be. But the new threat is clever, ominous, even closer than you suspect. You are about to gasp. You might drop the book. You may have to look over your shoulder. But you must keep reading. This is the best book of 2017.” —Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Find Her

REVIEW:

I often flatter myself by being able to be two steps ahead of all plot stories… Always! So when I am caught by surprise by a twist of the novel I applaud very loudly the author – You’re good! I was guessing madly as each snippet of information revealed by the author twisted the narrative in a new direction, or tantalisingly offered a seemingly innocent action or comment that was, in fact, a massively huge, big fat red herring. But, alas I could not find myself out of the novel before it ended.

Although it is a debut novel, I already know that Sager has way more to bring to the table. I have become a fan! From the initial moments, this novel proves to be a suspenseful, engaging read. The plot was intricate and smart. Marvellous thriller. I dare not predict its future, but it will definitely be a stepping stone in 2017. A key read for all thriller lovers.

It is gripping, easy to read and beyond enjoyable! 4FOXGIVENBrilliant from start to finish. A fast paced easy to read book that I had to read in one go to find out what happened. Lisa, Qunicy and Samantha are all sole survivors of separate massacres and that is why they are called the final girls. When Lisa is found dead, Quincy starts to try to remember her own story. Quincy has no memory of what happened at pine cottage. The book is written from her perspective. The who plot is brilliantly put together with many twists and turns which make it a memorable book.