Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #97: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

imagesWhat an adorable book.  I read this with a grin on my face, as it was such a good depiction of being at work.  Okay, I might be more of an IM girl with my work friends, but the whole stream of conversation that you can keep up through a day while managing to work at the same time is exactly like this.  I truly hope that my conversation isn’t popping any red flags because I would hate for anyone to read some of the nonsense conversation we get into.

Beth and Jennifer are two friends who work at a newspaper office.  It’s 1999, so email is still a bit of a novelty.  They spend their days maintaining an ongoing conversation about all their shizz – relationship issues, family, everything.  What they don’t realise is that their conversation has raised a flag with Lincoln in the IT Security Office.  At first he reads their emails in his role to monitor the improper use, but he soon becomes drawn into their story.  Though he’s never met them, the more he reads, the more he falls for one of them.  But how can he possibly tell her that he’s fallen in love with her through reading her private conversations with her friend?

This is a wonderful story and I’ll definitely be looking for more by this author.  Though normally the idea of a book written in email conversation would be enough for me to set it aside, here it really is more of a back and forth conversation between the two girls (no painful email formatting etc.) and is further broken up by chapters about Lincoln.  It works really well and I would recommend this novel wholeheartedly.

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Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #96: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

imagesI was surprised to discover this book published in 1993 was actually about the author’s experience in 1967.  Not having seen the movie, I had been aware of the subject, but didn’t know any of the particulars.   Sadly, like a lot of experiences shared about mental health institutions, it served mainly to make me think how much harm is done in the “best interest” of the person.

Susanna is 18 in 1967.  After a short meeting with a doctor she has never seen before, she agrees to enter McLean Hospital, a psychiatric centre in Massachusetts.  She goes with the understanding that this will be to give her a break for a couple of weeks.  However, she is there for nearly two years before she is released.

Susanna tells her story as a series of vignettes that leap around in non-chronological order.  There are stories of her fellow patients, the staff, her treatment, her need to try to make sense of the time that is passing, and the difficulty of reintegrating back into the world.  This really is a self-contained realm away from any external influence, though the patients are allowed television, so they get some sense of the radical changes happening outside.

There is a lot of interest here – the trends in psychiatric diagnosis that need to label individuals in order to cure them, the difference between understanding the mind and treating the brain, and whether there is an identifiable line between normal and deviant.  It is also apparent now that Susanna was caught up by her society’s fear of changing values and radicalism.  Some of her “symptoms” would now clearly be dismissed as typical teenage behaviour.  That isn’t to say that Susanna was not clinically ill – she does describe some self-destructive behaviour – but her incarceration for two years is completely disproportionate.

Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #95: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

sleepI was a huge Stephen King fan when I was a teenager.  I think Dead Zone was my first, which absolutely scared the beejeezus out of me, and then I slowly worked my way through the lot – always finding something new at the library or a secondhand bookshop.  I always had a preference to the novels I read back in the heyday – Salem’s Lot, Christine, The Shining, It…  Some of the later novels weren’t really my cup of tea, so I stopped seeking them out.  But hearing that Doctor Sleep was a sequel to The Shining was enough to get me back on track, and this book is absolute classic King.

Doctor Sleep is the story of Danny Torrance, now a grown man.  His psychic abilities – his “shine” – has lessened now that he is older, but he is still haunted by memories of his experience as a child, and embraces alcoholism in an attempt to block everything out.  This of course creates new demons and Dan is in a self-destructive spiral.  Now working as an orderly in a hospice, Dan uses his abilities to assist the passing of the residents, and gains the nickname Doctor Sleep.

Abra is a young girl with a very strong shine.  She is being pursued by members of the True Knot, a vampire-like group who feed on “steam” which emanates from children with shine as they die.  The True Knot travel constantly across the US in an RV convoy, searching for their victims.  They appear as completely harmless seniors, totally escaping notice.  Abra becomes aware of them and reaches out to Dan to help her.

Because this is a Stephen King book, there is obviously a whole lot more than that going on.  This is a fast paced book that really sweeps you along.   There is a real sense of peril, compelling characters and great dialogue.   I loved a couple of the throwaway references to other books – nicely played.  I’ve read a lot of negative reviews about this novel, basically coming down to the fact that this isn’t as good as The Shining.  To me, I think that I have a sense of nostalgia about all of King’s early novels that will always make them seem to be the classics, but I did find this to be an enjoyable read.

Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #94: Luther – The Calling by Neil Cross

200px-Luther_The_Calling_coverI was so excited to find this book – it was like getting an entire season of Luther as an unexpected gift.  Neil Cross is the creator and writer of the BBC series Luther as well as being a novelist.  He wrote this novel after the show had begun and as such, it meshes with the characters perfectly.

Luther: The Calling is the prequel to series one.  It is a simply perfect introduction to the characters and stories that are in play throughout the show.  Some of it you would already know – the pursuit of the man who had kidnapped a young girl and boarded her up inside a wall to suffocate.  But even knowing that ending to this story did not impact my enjoyment at all.  I loved getting to know more about these characters: Luther and Zoe, Benny (one of my faves from the show), the introduction of Justin Ripley into the team…  Without being gratuitous, Cross uses characteristics that are so instantly identifiable with the actors that portray those roles that it feels like you’re watching the show.

I don’t want to spoil anything in this review, but this book is a must-read for any fans of the show, or anyone who simply enjoys a good police procedural.  It does not depend on already knowing the characters, though I must admit that really added something to my interpretation.  It’s the inside scoop to Luther that made me find this such an incredibly gripping read.

Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #93: Gallery Girl by Wendy Holden

holdenAlice is working in a very unhip traditional art gallery during the height of the Cool Britannia movement.  Unfortunately, there no longer appears to be a market for painting in this age where Zeb Spaw’s latest piece, five prosthetic legs painted gold, just sold for 20 million pounds.   When her gallery is closed, Alice makes the leap over to a modern art gallery, working for the diabolical Angelica.  How will Alice reconcile her own beliefs about what constitutes art, with what is celebrated in her new world?

Wendy Holden is a reliable standby for comedic chick lit stories set in England.  Yes, this is a light read but it celebrates its own silliness with caricatures of the art world and super wealthy.  It almost feels like the fluffy version of the Banksy movie Exit Through the Gift Shop, by showing the avariciousness of the art consumer, wanting to buy whatever the latest celebrity artist produces, without any thought as to whether it has any inherent value or if they actually even like it.  This book doesn’t offer any great revelations, but is a pleasant read set in an interesting world.

Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #92: The Guts by Roddy Doyle

imagesI can’t even remember the last time I read a Roddy Doyle book.  I think after The Commitments came out as a movie, I read all of the Barrytown novels, but I certainly didn’t have more than a cursory memory of the characters.  This didn’t really matter, as though a few of the same characters are featured in this new novel, they and their world have moved on.

Jimmy Rabbitte, former manager of The Commitments is now 47, married with four kids, and newly diagnosed with bowel cancer.  The story opens with Jimmy meeting his father for a pint to break the news, and had me hooked within pages.  Doyle writes conversations so beautifully – though Jimmy is there to break the bad news to his dad, they get sidetracked into a spiraling conversation about family, Facebook, Cougar Town, and getting older.

The story of Jimmy’s surgery and resultant chemo are interwoven with his fears for his children, financial concern, reconnecting with a long-lost brother and his love of music.  I actually found it strange after finishing this book in essentially one sitting to realise how spare the plot actually was, with most of detail coming from daily minutiae and those nonsensical conversations we have with those we love.  The finale of Jimmy attending a music festival with his friends is so close to being ridiculous, but instead was somehow both funny and incredibly moving.  This is a beautifully written novel that would certainly benefit from a prior reading of Doyle’s Barrytown series, but stands alone as an absorbing and powerful story.

Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #91: These Three Remain by Pamela Aidan

UnknownThe third and final novel in the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series, this book wraps up the story of Pride and Prejudice with Darcy as the central character.  After a slightly bizarre turn of events in the second novel, we are now firmly back on track with the Austen plot, beginning with Darcy and Fitzwilliam’s visit to Rosings Park.  There’s a lot to get through in this book, from the first failed proposal, the return to Pemberley, the Wickham elopement and the eventual understanding with Elizabeth.   These events are all integral to understanding Darcy’s character and serve to highlight just how much he does actually change after meeting Elizabeth.

One strange element does stand out however, the infamous Colin Firth lake scene.  Though it is quite clear that Aidan is drawing from the BBC mini series as source material, she coyly sidesteps this moment.  Instead of the saucy plunge that led to every woman swooning after Colin Firth, for some reason Aidan cuts around this moment.  Instead, Darcy sends his dog into the lake as he arrives home, but he himself simply marches onto the house, unkempt and dusty to be sure, but without the clingy white shirt.

Overall, this was a solid end to an uneven trilogy.  Again, the Irish themes that are presented are one-dimensional and somewhat forced, but where the Austen plot is adhered to, I actually gained a greater understanding of the context that informed Darcy’s decisions and behaviour.  Only of interest to Austen fans, I would nonetheless recommend this to completists looking to further flesh out Austen’s novel.