Saturday, October 10, 2015

Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman


March and her teenage daughter Gwen return to March's home town for the funeral of the loving homekeeper that helped raise her. March's husband stays behind in California but is concerned, knowing that March will be in the same town as her teenage love Hollis. She never really got over him and knows that seeing him will be hard so she tries to avoid him. We learn about March's childhood in this sleepy town and what happened between March and Hollis. Gwen, having never been to this town before, quickly catches the eye of Hollis' ward and a horse that they keep on their property. For a California girl , she may want to stay here.

Typical to Oprah's book club books, this book is beyond frustrating. Yes, I understand that love can make people do crazy things. But in this case March has a daughter. You would think that March would put her daughter above all else, but it seems like she just forgets she even has a daughter to spend time with Hollis. It's irresponsible and annoying to read.

I found the ending disappointing as all of the characters got off to easy; even Hollis. Furthermore, where and what March ended up was glossed over. For all the flowery descriptions that Hoffman had throughout the book, the ending was rather rushed and not well thought out.

Overall, disappointing. I'm not sure why I bother with Oprah book club books anymore.

First Line: "Tonight, the hay in the fields is already brittle with frost, especially to the west of Fox Hill, where the pastures shine like stars."


Friday, October 09, 2015

Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard


Jim is just a kid when World War II comes on Shanghai. An American ship it attacked in the harbour and in the chaos that follows, Jim is separated from his parents. He's taken to a hospital but escapes and roams the city. The Chinese are no help, the Japanese are not interested in Jim at all, and there aren't many Europeans around to help him. Jim tries to go back to his family home but eventually Japanese move in there and Jim has to move on. He tries to turn himself in to the Japanese multiple times but it doesn't work. Only when he hooks up with two thieves does he finally manage to become a prisoner of the Japanese.

How does a young boy process the war? Jim doesn't understand it and is excited by the action he sees. He's in awe of the Japanese pilots. And he's not really scared. The adults that surround Jim and take care of him while they're held prisoner try to do their best by him but he's his own person and it's hard to point him in the right direction, if they can even figure out what that is.

I picked this book up because I'm travelling to China soon and wanted a book that takes place in the area. This was a very interesting one. Usually WWII books take place in Europe and speak about the Americans/Europeans. This one takes place in a country not really involved in the war as the Japanese take over. Furthermore, it's from the view point of a child which adds to the intrigue.

There are some confusing parts to this book. I had troubles keeping some items straight. It felt like Jim took hours to walk from one location to another, only to go back to the original location quickly. I'm not sure if I misunderstood but this seemed to be a recurring problem.

I had no clue this was a movie. One with Christian Bale as a kid no less. It's an interesting story; I'd be interested in seeing how it translates over to the big screen.

First Line: "Wars came early to Shanghai, overtaking each other like the tides that raced up the Yangtze and returned to this gaudy city all the coffins cast adrift from the funeral piers of the Chinese Bund."


Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A Line of Blood by Ben McPherson


Alex, his wife Millicent, and their 11 year old son Max are a happy family. While Millicent and Alex met and got together under slightly unusual circumstances, the two have been happily married for 13 years. All is normal in their Scottish existence until their cat runs in to the next door neighbour's yard. Max follows the cat, Alex follows Max. They follow the cat in to their neighbour's house, up the stairs, and right in to the washroom. Their neighbour is in the bathtub and dead. Though Alex tries to shield Max from seeing anything, the curious boy manages to see everything.

When the police start their investigation, it seems possible that either Alex or Millicent were responsible. One of Millicent's bracelets is found in the neighbour's house, increasing suspicion even further. The whole family has secrets and they slowly start to come out; the family unravels piece by piece. Can the family survive?

This psychological thriller is based off such a simple premise but it works very well. Credit given where it's due, McPherson does a fantastic job of drawing the reader in and hooking them quickly. This story twists and turns all over the place. You don't know who to place your trust in or who to like. There is a constant for the reader in Alex though. He loves his wife and child and has trouble getting over betrayal, like any normal person would. Alex reacts as I would expect to everything thrown his way, which helps make him the rock at the centre of the story.

The other item that was a constant throughout the book, but not in a good way, was how creepy the kid, Max, was. I don't think his behaviour is normal for 11 year old boys. Furthermore, he seems to really enjoy pushing his parent's buttons but neither of his parents reprimand him for his poor behaviour. I was fairly annoyed by him throughout the book which helped me figure out the final twist probably earlier than I otherwise would have.

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Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me review this book!

First Line: "The precarious thinness of his white arms, all angles against the dark foliage."

About the Author
Ben McPherson is a television producer, director, and writer and for more than ten years worked for the BBC, among other outlets. He is currently a columnist for Aftenposten, Norway's leading quality daily, and lives in Oslo with his wife and two children.
Find Ben on Twitter and Facebook.