Book Review: The Colour by Rose Tremaine

Newlyweds Joseph and Harriet Blackstone emigrate from England to New Zealand, along with Joseph’s mother Lilian, in search of new beginnings and prosperity, but the harsh land near Christchurch where they settle threatens to destroy them almost before they begin. When Joseph finds gold in a creek bed, he hides the discovery from both his wife and mother and becomes obsessed with the riches awaiting him deep in the earth. Abandoning his farm and family, he sets off alone for the new goldfields over the Southern Alps, a moral wilderness where many others, under the seductive dreams of the “colour,” rush to their destinies and doom.

Paper edition from my bookgroup.

I am the first to admit that my reading has been “off” for about 6 months, if not longer, so I am probably not operating at my full game. That said, I am sad to admit that The Colour is the first DNF of 2017.

Three people make the perilous journey from England to New Zealand to make a new life. Joseph; Harriet, his wife of a few months; and Lilian, his mother. Each person has their own reason for leaving England and each has a different idea what the country will offer them. However, the country instantly puts them on the back food, especially x, as the seasons are topsy turvey and they have little time to prepare for winter. Out of stubboness, x builds his house in the wrong place, using the wrong material, and it soon becomes clear how wrong the decision was.

Joesph gets gold fever, and makes the decision to leave his wife and mother to go to south island to search for more gold. The majority of the book is dedicated to each major character living a separate life to one another with loneliness being the overwhelming trait in their life, even when surrounded by others.

It’s when Joesph gets left by his only companion, and is subsequently surrounded by other gold rush miners that I finally gave up on this book. I’d been reading it for over a month, and was struggling to get any energy to return to it.  This is generally the signal to drop a book and move on, as I wasn’t going to pick up another book until I had made a decision about this one.

There were some good parts in this, such as the description of how and why Joseph decided to leave England (we get hints early on, but only fuller details in the second half of the book). The interaction of the neighbour’s son Edward with his superstitious Maori nurse is also rather magical. However in the end, it wasn’t enough to keep a cynical reader entertained.

Book Review: Meet Me At Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt

Welcome to Willoughby Close… a charming cluster of cozy cottages, each with a story to tell and a happy ending to deliver…

Ellie Matthews has come to Wychwood-on-Lea to find a new start for her and her daughter Abby. But, life there doesn’t start out as idyllic as she had hoped. While Ellie loves her cute cottage in Willoughby Close, the Yummy Mummies at the primary school seem intent on giving her the cold shoulder, Abby has trouble fitting in, and her boss, Oliver Venables, is both surprisingly sexy and irritatingly inscrutable.

But miracles can happen in the most unexpected places, and in small, yet wonderful ways. Slowly, Ellie and Abby find themselves making friends and experiencing the everyday magic of Willoughby Close. When Oliver’s nephew, Tobias, befriends Abby, the four of them start to feel like family… and Ellie begins to see the kindness and warmth beneath Oliver’s chilly exterior, which awakens both her longing and fear.

Ellie knows all about disappointment, and the pain of trying too hard for nothing, while Oliver has his own hurts and secrets to deal with. When the past comes rollicking back to remind both of them of their weaknesses and failings, will they be able to overcome their fears and find their own happy ending?

Picked up from Netgalley and read over the New Year – it’s only now, in checking reviews that I’ve realised that I haven’t written one for this book!

I’ve previously read A Cotswold Christmas from the same author, and whilst I considered that one a little short and light, this was a better book (possibly because it was longer and therefore room for more character development).

Anyway, Ellie has moved to Willoughby Close with her daughter Abby to get away from a painful past and try and move on.  Abby has previously been bullied at school, and unfortunately it seems it might be happening again at her new school. It doesn’t help that her apparent nemesis (Mallory) – and her mother (Harriet) – move in to the house next door.

Following a shaky start – both of them had different expectations from her working in the university typing pool – Ellie and her boss Oliver start dating. Abby, who swings between being the child and the adult in her relationship with her mother, becomes friends with Oliver’s nephew Tobias.

There’s an interesting take on “blended families”, where  Ellie and Oliver need to navigate Ellie’s relationship with Tobias’ mother, who has sunk into an alcoholic fugue following her husband’s suicide.

Against all odds, Abby also makes friends with Lady Dorothy, who is the old woman who lives in “the big house” – Ellie feels she always started off on the wrong foot with Lady Dorothy, ever since the dog ruined the croquet lawn.

The usual events for a romance happen along the way, and there are the usual bumps in the road – Nathan (Ellie’s ex) turns up unexpected, and Oliver invites Ellie home to meet his parents, having avoided telling her he comes from minor aristocracy and that his parents are horrendous people.

Ultimately, nearly everything gets resolved satisfactorily, but there is room for a future book on Harriet and Mallory, and perhaphs one about Nathan. As I mentioned before, it was a more rounded book than the previous one, so I’m glad I took another chance on this series.

 

Spring 2017 Bloggiesta – Finish up!

As I mentioned in my sign up post, I kept it relatively light this year, and so my to-do list was relatively short as follows:

  • Review uploaded media…anything not attached to a post?
    • I deleted about 30 images that were not attached to a post, and that I could not see being used in the near future. There are still unattached images in there, but there’s actually chance of them being used.
  • Do Librarythng. and Goodreads match, including reviews?
    • Goodreads and Librarything now match, with reviews linked and the 2017 books now matching.
    • It wasn’t what I had planned to do, but I did a check that the “To-Read” shelf and my “tbr” tag matched on Goodreads – to find out that they were out! I corrected these, corrected/added some reviews, and got several review hits from goodreads for the said books in the following days!
    • My Librarything to-read and tbr numbers match, but they are lower than the number on Goodreads – I still have to work out where the missing books are.
    • On an unrelated note, I logged onto Netgalley to review my TBR pile – and found there were two books that I’d read but not reviewed!  One review had already been published, so was copied in, and – worst of all – one review had simply not been written! Argh! There’s a post that needs to be done!
  • Any posts that need to be completed/scheduled?
    • two reviews were finished and published
  • Tags and categories right on blog, Goodreads and Librarything?
    • These have been tidied up, and where the usage numbers were low (< 2), deleted
  • Any posts that can be scheduled into twitter?
    • On the assumption that if a page got a hit in the last week, it means someone is looking at it, then some of those pages got scheduled into twitter over the next week or so, with images. This included the post just published
  • Take part in twitter chats where possible
    • this didn’t happen this time….boo!

 

Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic by Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo

dr-strange

They’ve crossed the dimensions, purging each of all sorcery. Now the Empirikul are here. And with Earth’s Master of the Mystic Arts weakened beyond measure, is there any chance of stopping them? The Sorcerer is no longer Supreme, and he’ll find himself at the mercy of the Imperator! With his magic destroyed and his world on the brink of disaster, are there any more tricks left up Strange’s sleeves? Or failing that, how about some cool weapons? Plus: As the Empirikul wreak havoc on magic users across the Marvel Universe, discover Wong’s ultimate sacrifice, watch Brother Voodoo make a stand, and meet a new player just as she’s about to lose the game!

I’ve not read Dr Strange before and I picked this book up around the time the film came out in the hope of brushing up on some of the source material.

It took me several attempts to get into the story and it was only later that I realised the probable reason for this – when I brought it, I didn’t realise this was the second half of a story arc, and I haven’t read the first novel.  The Empirikul, having decimated other realities, have come to this world, and are decimating their way through the magical forces in the world. It is up to Strange and the other magicians to band together to prevent the loss of everything, sometimes making total sacrifices to achieve the end.

It’s taken me a while to write this review – I dont know the creators and I dont know the characters at all, so I dont know how well or badly those involved are performing, but judging by the other reviews around the place…..this is a poor second book, especially in relation to what is generally considered to be an excellent first book. Judging by the fact it took me so many attempts to get started, and it still took me ages to review, I generally agree with what else has been written about it.

So in summary: I have more than enough Graphic Novels on my TBR list that I need to read so I will not be in a rush to buy any more Doctor Strange stories.

 

Book Review: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

A thrilling new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter who has been adopted by an American couple.

Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives.

In this remote Yunnan village, the stranger finds the rare tea he has been seeking and a reticent Akha people. In her biggest seller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, See introduced the Yao people to her readers. Here she shares the customs of another Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha, whose world will soon change. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city.

After mother and daughter have gone their separate ways, Li-yan slowly emerges from the security and insularity of her village to encounter modern life while Haley grows up a privileged and well-loved California girl. Despite Haley’s happy home life, she wonders about her origins; and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. They both search for and find answers in the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations.

A powerful story about a family, separated by circumstances, culture, and distance, Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond that connects mothers and daughters.

From edelweiss in exchange for a review.

I’ve read several of See’s books before (namely Peony in Love and Shanghai Girls), and this story develops around a small ethnic Akha group in western China. Starting in the 1990s, this has a feel of a group of people very much secluded by their location, traditions etc. Very traditional, there is a lot of superstition, such as the killing of twins and the subsequent shunning of the parents; pre-martial sex is accepted, almost expected, so long as the girl didn’t get pregnant; not having to be under one child rule, due to their ethnicity etc.

Li-Yan (also known as Girl)  is moderately educated, but misses out on going to higher education when a stranger (Mr Huang) arrives in the village, looking for pu’er (a specific type of fermented tea) and she is used as a translator. She is also distracted by San-pa, with who she has regular sex. He’s gone off to Thailand to get a job when she finds out she’s pregnant, still unmarried. She gives birth away from the village, helped by her mother, the local midwife. However, instead of killing the child, as tradition dictates, she is sent to the nearest town in order to find someone to look after her baby. She travels alone, and leaves the baby near an orphanage to be picked up.

She returns home to pick up the pieces and San-pa returns a few years later in order to “claim” Li-Yan. The two get married, and return to Thailand, only for Li-Yan to become disillusioned with everything. She realises that they are in Thailand illegally, San-pa is involved in the drug trade and is addicted to opium. With no money and no friends and no protection, Li-Yan is planning her escape when San-pa is killed by a tiger.

Having made her way back to the village, finally Li-Yan is able to go to tea school with the help of Mr Huang, though she doesnt know it at the time. She graduates, sets up shop in the city selling pu’er, makes friends, and finally gets married for a second time, this time to a rich Chinese man who splits his time between China and the US. She is thrust into a new world, where she is exposed to new things and realises just how backward her people are. She and her new husband keep looking for Hayley (though they dont know that’s her name), whilst knowing she’s somewhere in the US.

Meanwhile, she sees the effect of money is having on her village – whilst the houses are better, things are changing perhaps too much, and people seem to be ditching much of the traditions, for better or worse.

Interwoven to Li-Yan’s story are letters, adoption notes etc of Hayley being adopted and growing up in the US. It gives some insight into what’s it like to be a foreign adoptee with Western parents and the inherent need to find more whilst feeling a disconnect with your adoptive parents.  It’s only during a group chat later in the book that we actually “hear” Hayley’s voice, and then it’s in a mixed group of people. It’s an interesting way of presenting things, and helps break they story up, but could we have hear more from Hayley as Hayley?

I think See did well in challenging our perceptions with regards to other cultures, and how we shouldn’t judge another group of peoples to be all the same.  Whilst it is an interesting book, I can’t say that I was in love withThe Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane but I’m glad I’ve read it.

Anyway, it was interesting that when I was reading this book I was watching a repeat of Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure (with Ken Hom going around China), that included a stop in this province, and cooking with pu’er. I think reading this book helped me put things in a little more context as it was suddently a new word I was aware of.

 

 

Book Review: Romancing the Rogue by Erica Ridley

When the new earl inherits, poor relation Miss Rebecca Bond must wed immediately or be out on her ear. The only man she’s ever loved is summoned to hear the will—but he already rejected her so soundly that they haven’t spoken in years. Yet who better than a rakish Viscount to teach her how to snare a gentleman who appreciates her charms?

Daniel Goodenham, Lord North Barrows, regrets nothing more than the lost friendship with the one woman who treated him like a man, not a title. Fate has given him the perfect pretext to win her forgiveness—even if it means having to matchmake her to someone else. But now that she’s back in his life, he’ll do anything to convince her to choose him instead…

This story was first featured in the Vexed anthology.

I’ve read several of Ridley’s books before so I am pre-approved on Netgalley for many of her books on the site.  This is a relatively short book, with a very limited cast of characters.

Rebecca had a dubious first season, having been shamefull rejected in public by the older (he was 17) Daniel Goodenham who had just inherited his title after the death of his father. She has spent the last five years living in the shadows of Castle Keyvor, but with the death of Lord Banfield everything is now in jeopardy.  The new earl becomes aware of her existance and gives  her an ultimatum: with 5 girls of his own he has no extra time or money to support a sixth: she has mere months to find a husband, or he will choose a husband for her. Her parents long gone, her wardrobe significantly out of date, the chance of a small dowry, and out of practise in flirting etc., she feels she has little chance of finding a suitable husband in time.

She realises that Daniel would be coming up for the reading of the will and that she would make use of his reputation as a rake – without realising that it’s all made up in the press.

Disgusted by his birthday party, where he knows virtually noone but all the young women are flirting for his attention, Daniel comes up to the castle early. I’m not entirely sure how he’s certain that’s where she’ll be – in the need to find Rebecca’s forgiveness. He gets about a week with her before the others arrive for the reading of the will and it doesnt always go well. He finds her infinately more intelligent and talented than he ever hoped, she finds him not the rake that the press had made him out to be.

We dont get to meet the other guests, and certainly dont sit in on the reading of the will – we only get to hear the results, which surprises at least one of the couple. This is a good choice as it doesn’t clutter the story up with 1 dimensional characters who add nothing to the story. The only character that confuses me slightly is the reaction of Mary the maid who seems to have no problem in taking orders from Rebecca, despite (apparently) Rebecca’s non-visibilty around the castle for the last 5 years.

Anyway, a shortish story, that seems pretty standalone, and not requiring an investment in a series of 8 books to find out what happens to everyone involved (as seems the fashion nowadays).

Spring 2017 Bloggiesta

Well Spring Blogiesta is upon us, running march 20th to March 26th, and the sign up post is up.

I’m going to keep it relatively light this year, and so my to-do list is relatively short.  It’s the standard stuff that should be done, but often gets forgotton or pushed onto the back burner. They are as follows:

 

  • Review uploaded media…anything not attached to a post?
  • Do Librarythng. and Goodreads match, including reviews?
  • Any posts that need to be completed/scheduled?
  • Tags and categories right on blog, Goodreads and Librarything?
  • Any posts that can be schduled into twitter?
  • Take part in twitter chats where possible