literary fiction

Book Review – The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman.

5 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Kensington Books for granting my wish and allowing me to read an electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Wow! What a book! I mean, seriously addictive and so full of emotions! As some people know, I’m not usually a fan of Literary Fiction but I sometimes get in the mood to give it another go and hope the book I read is worth it. ‘The Life She Was Given’ was definitely worth it! I want to go on about how certain areas of the book made me feel, but I am concerned mentioning them would be one great big spoiler…

So I will just say some of the full circle moments were heart aching and so well written I needed a tissue! I am not a crier! Well, except for those animal ads, you know the ones. 😉

But, yes, this was a brilliantly well-written tale told in two halves about the one family. Parts of it set in the 1930’s and parts of it set in the 1950’s and  – although I’m not an expert –  I do feel some good, solid research went into writing in both eras and in both locations – one a manor house/ horse farm, and the other a travelling circus.

The stories are woven so well together, linking in subtle ways that the story runs seamlessly. Sometimes when you get two different stories running in the same book they are very disjointed and hodge podge. Not in ‘The Life She Was Given’. No – seamless writing!

What can I say about ‘The Life She Was Given’ without giving anything away? Well, it is a very emotional journey through both eras, the characters are well written and I found myself connecting with them to enjoy the ride (even through the sad bits) and boy was it addictive! My kids were told to fend for themselves on Saturday (they are 12, 10 and 8 so can do the basics) as I simply HAD to keep reading!

The only issues I found with this book – and it has absolutely nothing to do with the author, which is why I didn’t mark it down in my score – is that the eBook formatting was blocky and jumbled in places. New paragraphs starting mid-sentence, the title and page number of the book appearing mid page… EBook formatting can be a pain at times and one little glitch and cause a whole series of issues… But as it was an ARC I read I merely assumed that Kensington Books would have it all sorted and that the final version will be perfect.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Lovers of historical fiction and literary fiction, even women’s fiction, are going to enjoy ‘The Life She Was Given’. I was raving over it so much my 12 year old wants to have a read… but I feel – despite her above average levels of maturity and intelligence – that I wouldn’t recommend it to her. Yes teen girls like to adventure into this genre but their raw, developing emotions might get a little too hurt in reading this. It’s not a horror book or a completely sad tale… but there are moments where you may want to just put the book down for a moment and hug the cat or child or something.

 

Would I buy this book for myself?

Tough call. I mean, I did love it and am still walking off the book hangover it’s given me. But my underlying aversion to literary fiction does make me baulk at going out and buying my own copy. What a miser I am being! It is an amazingly heart felt and emotional roller coaster of a book – wow I can’t believe I was just that corny – but, yeah, some books touch you in such a way they are better as library books than ones you personally own.

As in, they are kept offsite and away from you, but you have access to them when you want to feel the way they make you feel… does that make sense? No, no I don’t think it does! But it’s how I feel. Love the book, not too sure I would want to possess it as it needs to be free. LOL! Ignore me, it’s Monday and my Crio Brü mug is in the wash.

 

In summary: A brilliant, well-written literary fiction that is going to tug at the heart strings while keeping you wanting more. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis

Book Review – Out of the Ice by Ann Turner.

Out of the ice

2 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Simon and Schuster Australia for providing me with a free ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, so you can see by the score I wasn’t a fan… please don’t hate me as there is some (hopefully) good constructive criticism coming to explain why. If I gave half scores, it would be at least a 2.5… maybe even a 2.75 out of 5 if that helps?

Firstly, this was a well written book of containing some great details, well scripted imagery and, in most parts, engaging characters. The low score is due to me not gelling with the book and therefore based on my reaction rather than to its quality. They quality could not be faulted.

Time for the but… BUT! I am not a fan of literary fiction and this story bordered a little too much on that – in its “adults fiction” genre – than I like. And the mystery and suspense just wasn’t there for me as much as I had hoped from the blurb.

I found the pace of the book excruciatingly slow (I went off and read two other books to wake up my brain) and honestly felt like 90% of the story was just padding and it was just the last 10% of the book that was worth it. And, without trying to throw out any spoilers, that outcome in Venice… why was Venice even involved really? It seemed tacked on to add spice and excitement (failed) and to show the author knew how to describe the city and add to the globe-trotting promised thrill. It didn’t for me – sorry.

And for a person who had spent over a year in the Antarctic and didn’t seem too sensitive to the cold when there, she did come across as a bit of a wuss in the Nantucket winter when she found that so cold it needed to be mentioned almost every sentence.

Then that ending? It was as if Ms Turner had raced to reach her word count and then decided to throw a disjointed “happily ever after” in without then going over the said word count. It was rushed, clumsy and left a lot of unanswered questions as it tried to tie the story up in a nice, neat package and hide the holes by adding a big, colourful bow to distract you.

Ack, I am being too harsh, I am so sorry Ms Turner, you wrote a good book, I am just not The Reader for it. But I hope I’ve explained why I wasn’t a fan.

Maybe it’s because I am more a crime fiction, mystery/suspense, cosy crime reader than I am an “adult fiction” (bordering on literary fiction) reader? As, for me, this was slow, barely kept the thread of the plot without constantly having to recap and all in all I only finished it as I felt it deserved being read from cover to cover because it was by an Australian author.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Probably not. But that is only because I don’t know many friends who enjoy the genre this book actually is – don’t be fooled by the blurb! Yes if I happened to be chatting to someone into this genre I would recommend it wholeheartedly. But for my fellow crime fiction fans? No… just don’t.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Unsurprisingly – no. Just not my cup of tea I’m sorry. The book is not to fault, I am, for thinking it was a genre I liked when it really wasn’t. I get more mystery and thrills out of emptying my son’s school bag each week – and there have been some doozies of finds in there as he is a bit of a blackbird with gross collections!

In summary: A well written “adult fiction” book that borders on literary fiction more than it does to mystery and crime. There are those who will love this book and good on them! Sadly I was the wrong person for the book and so you ended up with this review.

Until next time,

Janis.