On The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

On The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

I have just finished The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin and it was such an AMAZING book! I already know it will be among my top picks for 2016. I know, a big call right?

The Forgetting Time is one of those books that has you engrossed from the first page to the very last; and by last I mean the last page of the acknowledgements. I really wasn’t ready to let go of this book and the wonderful story it told.

The Forgetting Time stands out as a great book for many reasons. It has no genre, it’s not a thriller or a romance, it is just a fantastic story that will have you holding your breath and clutching your chest; well it did for me.

The book was told from the different perspectives of the three main characters; Jani, Jerome and Denise. I loved this as I became emotionally invested in each of the characters and their stories.

Janie’s son Noah is her world, and it breaks her heart that he has nightmares. That he’s terrified of water. That he sometimes pushes her away and screams he wants his real mother. That it’s getting worse and worse and no one seems to be able to help.

I am hesitant to say too much about this book because I don’t want to take anything away from the experience you get reading and discovering how the story evolves. It was purely one of those books you pick up and totally enjoy and sit back and say to yourself why can’t every book I read be like this?!

If you are looking for one of those rare books that grabs hold and offers you an amazing story to share then The Forgetting Time is for you. I am only sorry that it is Sharon Guskin’s first book and I can’t go out and buy anything else she has written!

Jody

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On The Story of a New Name and the mystery of Elena Ferrante

Elena Ferrante is a name steeped in mystery. The author of the bestselling Neopolitan novels wants to remain anonymous and so far has managed to do so. An incredible feat in this digital age. Ferrante explains this in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, conducted by email, writing that “physical absence from the public sphere makes the writing absolutely central”. Which is true. To a point. The obsession over Ferrante’s identity is becoming almost as prominent in the public space as the obsession with the books themselves.

The Story of a New Name is not a comfortable book. It is quietly sombre in its depiction of Lila and Elena, friends who live in Italy in the 1960s. It chronicles their tangled lives in detail, smoothly picking up the threads from My Brilliant Friend. Neither book strives to give you great pleasure, or fill you with the joy a simple story can bring. Instead the intricacies of female friendship at times overwhelm you with a sense of recognition and maybe even a little trepidation. Recognition of the complexities of female friendships – the quiet competition, the constant comparisons, the love for each other often amplified through pain. And the trepidation from a clear sense that this isn’t going to go smoothly for either character. Sometimes I feel that female friendships can be like running a race, only you are completely unaware of it until it you realise you have in some way lost in the other’s eye. Much of this disappointment is born in your own mind, but much is born empathetically or just entirely obviously. The subtlety of this relationship is the key here. Thats’s where the true beauty of Ferrante’s writing lies.

I will readily admit I’ve only read the first two Neapolitan novels since the series gained popularity last year. To be honest, while I enjoyed the first one, I didn’t rush to pick up the second. They are books that should be savoured, but they are also books that weigh heavily when you’re reading them. I need a break in between. I need to gather my strength to pick up the next one. I don’t know why they resonate so strongly, but I do know I’m not alone in feeling that way, and there is some comfort in that.

Ferrante’s writing is truly eloquent; once you start you ride a wave of underlying emotion so strong that you power through each novel. I feel we have so much to learn from her – or him – particularly on the intricacies of human behaviour. Elena and Lila are like two sides of the same spinning coin, each trying to land face up.

Much credit must go to Ann Goldstein who translated the stories from their original Italian, without losing any of the delicacy of the writing. I think translators are often so under-appreciated, don’t you? It must be so difficult to get beneath the skin of a story enough to rewrite it so beautifully in another language. There is great skill there.

There is much skill in this series and I’m grateful for it. Even if you shy from the popular books, try and read these. There’s something in them that makes you understand yourself a little better.

Amanda x

P.S. Jody, these books have that little (t) on the cover that I know you love to see.

On A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

Okay. I am happy to admit I bought this book purely on the cover. It’s really simple and eye catching and has a quote from Liane Moriarty on the front. Liane. Moriarty. Usually I don’t pay much attention to the testimonials but geez. How could I not pick it up?

A Window Open is the story of Alice Pearse, New Jersey mother of three, whose husband leaves his job, forcing her into full time employment. It is a classic modern family drama, a debate over life at home with the kids or a high-profile career. Which must be sacrificed? Is it possible to have both? It’s also a reminder that it’s so easy to work 24-7 these days, our devices are always switched on, emails are being checked. But when we do this, are we truly working to live? Before you know it a year has passed and you’ve barely stopped to notice the seasons change.

Alice juggles her three children, a career that she becomes increasingly uncertain about, her husband’s mid-life crisis and differences of opinion between friends, before the inevitable happens and she is forced to take a step back and revaluate her priorities. The plot line is a tad predictable, but the story written in a relaxed, engaging style and you find yourself turning the pages quickly.

Egan also addresses the issues of technology versus tradition, eBooks versus print books, local versus global. Is it possible that they can survive side-by-side? She made me wonder – how are the traditional bookstores closest to you faring? In Australia they seem to have survived the threat of eBooks for now and most are thriving when I visit, but perhaps there is more going on beneath the surface. Many stores have expanded and developed what they sell. Some have incorporated cafes and other complimentary side-businesses to survive. Is this the case where you are?

I can see why the publishers have used Liane as a selling point for Elisabeth Egan’s book. There are definite similarities in their writing styles, but for me the humour in A Window Opens falls a little short. There are bleak undertones which place a heavy burden on the story, and the lighter moments struggle to shine through. This wasn’t a difficult read though and I certainly enjoyed it for the most part (what book-lover wouldn’t enjoy a novel about another book-lover!).

Overall, I suggest you make a cup of peppermint tea and take A Window Opens out to read in your garden or on a balcony. This book is perfect for a quiet moment in the sunshine.

Amanda x

On The Trap by Melanie Raabe

On The Trap by Melanie Raabe

Wow! If those two lines don’t get your attention I don’t know what will.

What attracted me to The Trap was the cover and the sentence above. Then I noticed it was published by Text Publishing. I’ve found so many great reads from the Text shelves. When I saw the little (t) on the front cover I thought: this book must be good otherwise Text wouldn’t have published it, right? The answer is yes! It was great and Text has once again published an impressive debut novel.

I was reading outside my comfort zone with The Trap (I’m not one who normally reads psychological thrillers) but I was immediately drawn into Linda’s world – it was just so cleverly revealed in the first few pages and had me wanting to know more.

Linda is a famous novelist and a recluse who hasn’t left her home in years. Her sister Anna was murdered 12 years ago and Linda saw the murderer. Now twelve years later she sees him again on TV, and begins to set her TRAP.

Why did I enjoy this book so much? It’s a little hard for me to explain. Linda was easy to like, although she was a very confused and lonely person. I was invested in her story and wanted to see how it would end.

There was also a very clever plot line – a novel within a novel – which was interesting and gave you more insight into Linda’s character and how she ended up a recluse. At no point in the book did I even begin to guess what was going to happen, in fact I was just as confused as Linda, not knowing what was real or imagined, so much so that I even reread passages to see if I missed something. It was also refreshing to be pulled along in the natural flow of the story without worrying too much about the outcome. It didn’t matter to me, what was important was that Linda got a chance to work through her emotions and find some sort of closure.

The Trap is described as a psychological thriller but there was so much more to the novel than finding out who killed Linda’s sister Anna and why. There was Linda’s story and that was what I found the most enthralling.

Normally when I write a review I have the book beside me so I can flick through and reread bits, it somehow makes it easier to write. This time however I don’t have the book with me. I quickly passed it along to a friend to read because I enjoyed it so much!

Anyway, I hope you pick up The Trap for yourself and read it because it was definitely 5 stars for me!

Jody

 

 

 

 

 

10 Quick Questions for Author Annie Seaton

Recently we asked author Annie Seaton 10 quick questions about her life as a writer. Annie lives near the beach on the east coast of Australia (lucky thing!) and is passionate about the Australian environment. This is evident in her latest book, Kakadu Sunset, a contemporary romance set in the beautiful Kakadu National Park.

We are so grateful to Annie for being our first author chat here at SR! We love hearing from anyone who loves books as much as we do, and who better to ask than someone who writes them?

When did you realise you wanted to write books?

My earliest memory is when my mother took me to a library when I was four! I wrote my first book when I was eleven.

How extensively do you plan your novels?

I don’t. I have an idea and setting, then my characters develop and the action happens! I call myself an organic writer.

Where do you write and when?

I write weekdays from 7.30 am till 3pm…and occasionally on weekends if there is nothing else happening.

What were your favourite books growing up?

Anne of Green Gables, and the Famous Five!

What are you reading and want to recommend at the moment?

Jenn J McLeod…The Other Side of the Season

What do you like to do when you’re not writing (or reading)?

I walk the beach with our dog and spend time in my garden.

Are you working on another book at the moment? What can you tell us about it?

I am currently in edits for Book 2 of the Porter Sisters series: Daintree Sunrise, and am also a third of the way through writing Book 3, Kimberley Moonlight. I am loving Kimberley Moonlight, the setting is glorious!

An obsessed worker, I am also writing a paranormal suspense called The Green Trees, and a light contemporary about an editor!

You write beautifully about the Australian landscape, what is it that you love about it? 

I guess it is because we live in such a beautiful country with diverse landscapes from tropical beaches to isolated deserts, to urban landscapes. We have so many places to visit to have different experiences all in our own land.

What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Be passionate and determined, and you will succeed.

And, of course we couldn’t resist asking you about libraries! You seem very passionate about them (we are too!) and once moonlighted as an Academic Research Librarian. What is it that you love about libraries?

No moonlighting there … being a librarian was my dream career and I did it for twenty years before I became a teacher. I hold a postgraduate degree in Library Science too.


Thanks so much Annie! We really loved getting a glimpse into your life as a writer and wish you all success with the new novels you are working on.

Kakadu Sunset is published by Pan Macmillan and you can find out more about Annie from her website and on Twitter @annieseaton26

 

On Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

For years I’ve put off reading Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, even when it was on the Dymocks Top 101 list for awhile. I always thought the premise was a bit silly, and the blurb turned me off a bit – crime and magic and… dead people? Not for me. But a couple of weeks ago I heard Kate Evans interviewing Aaronovitch on ABC Radio National Books and she said she’d read the first book in preparation for the interview, then the next four books in quick succession, she had just loved them so much.

To be fair, the premise is a little silly, but in a good way. In a hilarious way actually. It’s like a grown up version of Harry Potter (which is no bad thing) about a secret branch of the London police that deals with magic and mysterious incidents that happen to be supernatural. In fact, Harry gets a mention in the opening chapters:

‘You put a spell on the dog,’ I said as we left the house.

‘Just a small one,’ said Nightingale.

‘So magic is real,’ I said. ‘Which makes you a … what?’

‘A wizard.’

‘Like Harry Potter?’

Nightingale sighed. ‘No,’ he said, ‘not like Harry Potter.’

‘In what way?’

‘I’m not a fictional character,’ said Nightingale.

The main character, PC Peter Grant, is swept up in it all when he discovers he has interviewed a ghost as a key witness in a murder case. Turns out PC Grant has a bit of a knack for this kind of thing, despite being a pretty average policeman (a bit of a daydreamer to be sure).

What really carries the story along though is Aaronovitch’s detailed descriptions of London and its history. He has said the books are a kind of odd love letter to London, the city he grew up in, the city he loves. This absolutely comes through in the story, with a richness of description that could only come from someone who knows their home town back-to-front. Convent Garden, Camden Market and the London City streets come alive with his enthusiasm.

Then there’s just the general hilarity within the whole story. PC Grant rarely seems to take himself and the whole situation seriously:

Reluctantly I opened my carryall and donned my uniform jacket and my bloody stupid helmet. For the record, we all hate the bloody helmet, which is useless in a fight and makes you look like a blue biro with the top still on.

I won’t give too much away because I really enjoyed this book, and if you’re up for a quirky, quintessentially British (with a twist) read, you should give it a go as well!

Amanda x