Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea

12 Feb

Back to the Classics Challenge: Classic Novella

Title: The Old Man and the Sea

Author: Ernest Hemingway

I picked this book up on a whim in a shop near my office, attracted only by the fact that it was a small slim volume which would fit neatly into my bag for the train journey home. But I am very glad that I did. Continue reading

Book Review: World War Z

24 Jan
World War Z cover (Sergey Galyonkin)

Image: Sergey Galyonkin 

Title: World War Z (An Oral History of the Zombie War)

Author: Max Brooks

I definitely got out of my comfort zone with this book. I’m not a fan of horror in general, and zombies in particular are at the top of my ‘Things Julie Doesn’t Read About’ list. But my housemate convinced me that World War Z was not your average zombie novel and I was certainly pleasantly surprised. Continue reading

Book Review: The O’Hara Affair (Kate Thompson)

4 Feb


Image: Borders

Foraying into Kate Thompson’s west Irish world for the second time, I was not disappointed that I had decided to delve further. The O’Hara Affair is a sequel of sorts to The Kinsella Sisters, although you do not need to have read the latter in order to understand the former, they simply feature many of the same characters.

In The O’Hara Affair we return to the pretty Irish village of Lissamore, where a film is being produced about the life of Scarlett O’Hara’s father. The protagonist of this book is Fleur O’Farrell (who had only a minor role in The Kinsella Sisters), who is conducting a steamy love affair with the film’s executive producer, Corban O’Hara, as well as finding her way in the strange new world of social networking. The Kinsellas, prominent in Thompson’s last novel, also appear, particularly Dervla who, having given up her job as an estate agent, is now struggling to care for her elderly mother-in-law, Daphne. For the most part, Rio (the second Kinsella sister) plays only a minor role in this book, although she and her son Finn do appear from time to time, as does Finn’s father Shane, who is playing the romantic lead in the film.

This  is a book which attempts to have it all: drama, passion, mystery, and suspense. And, for the most part, it succeeds, although some of the supposed twists are more predictable than Thompson may have intended. I was also irked by the fact that a character was introduced in the prologue and then ignored until the final few pages, in what appeared to be merely an attempt to whet the reader’s appetite for Thompson’s next book.

It was certainly thought-provoking though, and quite uncomfortably so at times, with its messages on the dangers of online relationships and treatment of the elderly. For this reason, it would be ideal for a book club, and indeed in my copy there were questions included at the end to facilitate such discussion. Or for anyone who, like me, has fallen in love with Kate Thompson’s characters in The Kinsella SistersThe O’Hara Affair is sure to make an enjoyable read.

Book Review: The Kinsella Sisters (Kate Thompson)

28 Jan

Image: dooyoo.co.uk

There’s something about books about Ireland (and, for that matter, books with Irish authors, or even sometimes just a single Irish character). I can’t put my finger on quite what it is, but an ‘Irish’ book will never fail to leave me smiling.

The Kinsella Sisters is no exception. Written by Kate Thompson (and read by me only because it was in the Twelve Days of Kindle sale over Christmas), it is set in the village of Lissamore, on the west coast of Ireland. This is the kind of village which everyone wants to live in, a picturesque little place where everyone knows one another. And of course, as is natural in such a village (and least in a good book), there are secrets just dying to come out. The central characters are the eponymous Kinsella sisters, estranged for years, but thrown back together by the death of their father. Rio is a faintly eccentric single mother whose son Finn is about to fly the nest, while Dervla is the more practical one, a successful estate agent who left her sleepy village home years ago for the bright lights of the city.

It looks like a recipe for conflict, but in fact there is surprisingly little, most of the problems seeming to have occurred in the distant past before the story begins. Instead, the plot focuses on the interactions of the sisters with millionaire Adair Bolger, his pretty daughter Isabella, and Rio’s ex-lover, dashing Hollywood wannabe (and poet) Shane Byrne. It is, for the most part, hardly what you would call plot-driven, but nor does it suffer from this thanks to the strength of the characters created, some of whom I fell in love with, and others who I loved to hate. There are also some interesting twists, although some of the secrets are revealed a little too quickly and easily for my liking, in particular the ‘family secret’ mentioned on the cover, which actually plays far less of a role than you might be tempted to think.

Aside from this I had only two real complaints about this story. The first was the dialogue, which was a little wooden at time, with certain words (‘gal’ in particular) being overused. I was also disappointed by the ending, as The Kinsella Sisters drifts to a rather unsatisfactory conclusion, leaving many loose ends untied. This may be a ploy to allow Thompson to write more books about Lissamore (which she has, two of them), but for me it detracted from what was otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Book Review: I Heart New York (Lindsey Kelk)

16 Jan

Image: Waterstones

I came across I Heart New York by accident, at a How to Get Published event held by Marie Claire. Lindsey Kelk, the author, spoke at the event, and at the end I queued with the rest of the excitable twenty-somethings to get my free copy of the book signed, then promptly abandoned it on my bookshelf for the next six months.  When I finally picked it up last week I realised what I had been missing out on: an escapist romp in a fabulous setting, which left me happy but with the sudden desire to buy myself a complete new wardrobe!

Believable, it is not particularly, as the story starts with the heroine catching the first flight to New York after catching her fiancé cheating on her.  But despite the slightly unrealistic situation (perhaps there are women who take such drastic measures after a break-up, but I doubt that there are many), it was easy to relate to the characters. Taking centre stage alongside Angela is her new BFF Jenny Lopez (yes, really), whose plans for the future involve meeting Oprah, getting a job with Oprah, and gradually usurping Oprah in the hearts and minds of the nation. There are also love interests to help her get over her scumbag of an ex: smooth-talking Tyler, a Wall Street banker; and skinny indie boy Alex, lead singer of one of Angela’s favourite bands. And best of all she gets a job blogging for the website of a trendy New York magazine, meaning that for me she was literally living the dream.

In my opinion though, the best part of this book is its stunning New York setting, and the references throughout are tantalising. It took a lot of willpower, on finishing, not to book myself on the first flight out there! I did feel a little flat at the end of the book though; it seeming to end too suddenly, the loose ends tying up just a little too easily. This was a pity, as it detracted from a story which had kept me hooked up until that point. However, I very much enjoyed Kelk’s writing style, and look forward to reading the rest of the books in the ‘I Heart…’ series.

For more about the author, visit: http://www.iheartlindseykelk.com/.