Review: The Tin Can Tree

The Tin Can Tree
The Tin Can Tree by Anne Tyler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a weird relationship with Anne Tyler. I met her when I was nineteen. I was camping in Tennessee and she kept me company, and as she did so I began to discover that I really wanted to write. I have loved her since then, always, and am quick to mention that The Accidental Tourist is one of my favourite books. She is strange though. Possibly in a way that I can’t quite express. While reading her other books (I have not gotten through all of them yet – not even all of hers that I own) I find myself wondering “why did you write this?” I cannot help but be curious about her motivations. What happened? What tiny little occurrence set you running off to tell this story? With the Tin Can Tree, you slip into the aftermath of the death of a child. It is a story filled with awkward conversations. It is strange, and yet readable. Relatable even if you cannot possibly relate. Anne Tyler baffles me. I can only imagine that she might have the true powers of an empath. She seems to understand things that she could not possibly have experienced – at least not all of them, though I imagine perhaps some. Her books seem to be just this though: a series of conversations that are so real you cannot stop yourself from hearing every word that she says. You get to the end and you think, “well not much happened in that story, everyone just sat around talking….” and then you go on to wonder how on earth her method works. Because it does work. And yet you can’t imagine ever pulling it off yourself.

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Review: The Good Neighbour

The Good Neighbour
The Good Neighbour by William Kowalski

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well….that was kind of…odd… I’m kind of a Kowalkski fan, in that when I was 20 I read Eddie’s Bastard and it kind of happened while I was starting to realise that I wanted to write and it played into the becoming a writer thing really well. The follow up, Somewhere South of Here, played the game well too – in fact even better because I particularly adored that book (I should maybe read it again). And somewhere along the line I found Flash Jackson pretty fascinating. So I was really excited to read this book. From the beginning I hated it though. The main characters are pretty cliche and exceptionally loathsome. The husband is a classic douche. You read about him and immediately you feel like “hey, I know that guy”…and then you go “why the hell did this idiot of a woman marry him?” and then you just hate her because clearly she is an idiot. I don’t know. I think on the whole the writing was fine. I enjoyed the parts that covered the history of the house. Kowalski uses a few cliches, but nothing unforgivable. I just….I just didn’t buy any of it. I don’t know. For one I had no reason to believe that Francie was intelligent or wonderful, other than being told that she was. But creepiest of all. I guess I have to admit to myself that it is entirely possible that hating these two so much is simply a denial of my own recognition of the toxic dynamic between them. Oh…and just in case Mr. Kowalski himself ever reads this review: Dude, it’s rooibos….not roiboos. I promise. I am 100% correct about that. I even googled it to check to see if maybe roiboos wasn’t something that I just didn’t know about. If it is, please let me know because google doesn’t know either. But otherwise: rooibos.

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Review: Funny Girl

Funny Girl
Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know how there’s that cliche question of “If you could have dinner with anyone at all, dead or alive, who would you choose?” and then your answer is supposed to establish a whole bunch of things about who you are or your compatibility with someone or something? Well, my fantasy dinner guest has been Nick Hornby for as long as I can remember. Of course, if we’re allowed to choose fictional people for this question then I might have to choose The Doctor, but it might be best not to go there… As for Mr. Hornby, I think he would be a fantastic person to just hang out with. I know t his because there is no doubt in my mind that I kind of know him. Sorry Sir, but your writing is exceptionally revealing. Or it is to me at least.

How do I even start this review? “How to Be Good” has been my soul book for such a long time. It still is, of course, because I will be psychologically attached to it for the rest of my life. I do, however, have to admit that Funny Girl might be just the tiniest bit better. I’m not sure how or why, but I think Nick Hornby has outdone himself with this latest gift to the masses. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of British comedy, or just British television in general, or maybe it’s simply that I really can’t help but understand everything this man says. Whatever it is, I once again find myself at the end of a Hornby novel feeling exceptionally happy for his existence. This book is filled with the exceptionally 3 dimensional characters that we have all come to expect from Hornby and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have started the new year with these people.

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Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy ~ Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones: Mad About the BoyBridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was convinced that I hated this book until I got to the end. Silly me… Ever choosing the side of nostalgia… There’s something about Bridget that I very much relate to. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. I don’t think I’m “like” her so much as I just “get” her. Of course there are times when I want to wring her annoying little neck, but it seems that whenever I come to the end of her stories I kind of can’t do anything but smile a smile of endearment.

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His & Hers ~ Mike Gayle

His 'N' HersHis ‘N’ Hers by Mike Gayle

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Terrible news: I have to demote Mike Gayle from my Top Ten authors list. It’s kind of ok because I really just put him on there because I didn’t have a real top ten authors list so I made on up quickly and filled in the last couple of spaces with authors I kind of enjoyed and felt like reading about in March during my “favourite authors” marathon. Anyway – this book was kind a “meh” in that it was so cliche that I actually started to get annoyed. The WHOLE book was cliche with a ridiculous unrealistic ending that didn’t match all the rest of the realistic cliche-ing. I can’t help but think Mr Gayle may have been trying to work out a few personal issues by writing this book. Actually….that’s not the first time I’ve had that thought about his stuff.

I’m growing up I guess. Bloke-lit can be awesome and Gayle has done a good job of it in the past, but I think this time he didn’t succeed quite as well as he usually does.


A Long Way Down ~ Nick Hornby

CYMERA_20140313_150819As you can possibly see by this failed sort-of-attempt-at-arty photograph, I own three copies of Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down. I’m not entirely sure how this came about. No. I lie. The red one I bought when it first came out because High Fidelity, About a Boy and How to Be Good were awesome. The purple one I bought because it was on sale at Bargain Books  and the cover was pretties than the red one. And the blue one my mom bought me at a flea market because she knew I liked Nick Hornby. So now I have three. To be honest I’m not even sure this particular red one is mine. I loaned someone a bunch of books once. Since then she kind of broke up with me friendwise (ok then) and so because she wasn’t speaking to me I asked another friend to ask her for my books back. I’m sorry but I really don’t think you should have to go through all that whatthefuckjusthappened crap and then still have to lose your books as well. Anyway – she returned a bunch of books and none of them were mine. I used to have a red copy of this book, but I’m pretty sure someone else has it at the moment. So now…. I don’t really know what to do or why this blog post has ended up being such a giant preamble to what is essentially probably only going to end up being a vaguely informative review post.

I decided to indulge in this particular book for the third time (see…I have three books… I’ve read this book three times…. totally normal!) because 1. I am reading my favourite authors this month and I don’t have any Nick Hornby books that I haven’t read yet and 2. the movie of this book is coming out soon so it’s always fun to have a bit of a catch up before watching the movie. Anyway….and here is where the vague part comes in…. I love this book. It is awesome. Nick Hornby never fails to impress me with his ability to become so many different characters. Of course, this book is extra special to me because it kind of inspired my own novel (which I now hate, but still) and I must be honest I was kind of weirded out by how little of it I actually remembered. I guess it’s kind of cool that my brain doesn’t retain stuff properly. It means I can kind of enjoy my favourite things more than once.

So who would enjoy this kind of book? Anyone who ever gave any real thought to pretty much anything ever. Anyone with the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Actually I’m kind of high on a flu virus right now…. Possibly no one should listen to anything I have to say….


The Labrador Fiasco ~ Margaret Atwood

CYMERA_20140309_131145I have a confession to make: I totally chose this Margaret Atwood book to read because it was only 40 pages long.  And the book is teeny tiny so it’s not even a normal 40 pages so much as it about a quarter of that because seriously – them’s some tiny ass pages! But, I have great respect for Ms. Atwood and I wanted to include her in my favourite authors month, but I just didn’t have it in me to get into a heavy novel. So I read this one. And it was kind of sweet. Like I got it, even though I can’t really tell you what it was about. A man who had a stroke I guess. And a story about people getting lost in the wilderness. It was nice to read though it didn’t carry any sort of lasting message I guess. Unless you can count Margaret Atwood is good at writing as a message. Actually that seems like a pretty ok message….


I’m totally naked in this photo….. (Catching the Sun ~ Tony Parsons)

1654136_10153890169420094_666020563_nAfter making just the tiniest bit of progress regarding our potential  move to Thailand I couldn’t resist picking up this book and getting lost in someone else’s ideas of the place. So, of course, I took a hot shower and jumped on to my bed to read it while the family was out somewhere (this blissfully happens from time to time) and yes… I am totally naked in this photo… Reading in the nude after a hot shower is the best way to read. (hashtag:true story)

As always Tony Parsons did not disappoint me. Funny enough this particular book got bad reviews but I still loved it. Toni Parsons bring a certain kind of honesty to his writing. He is so real that I do feel like his books are teaching me something. I feel like he teaches me what it is to be a man, and in doing so he shows me how men and woman can kind of understand each other. I feel like he understands me and that I understand him because when he writes, he simply just writes. I don’t know if it is silly but this gives me hope. We are not so lost and different. There are pieces of ourselves that easily intertwine with the pieces of others. And when those others are essentially “good people” it feels incredibly good.

Tony Parsons makes me feel hopeful. He makes me feel hopeful about ordinary life. It is one thing to instil in someone a longing through the power of fantasy imagination, but to meet a longing by simply pointing out the beauty in human flaws? It feels like a relief. And I do very much think that counts for something….


Click ~ Various Authors

ClickClick by Eoin Colfer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Click is a book written in ten chapters by ten different authors. I imagine you will have heard of a few of them. I bought it because I am a fan of Nick Hornby. While I was reading this book I kind of planned to give it three stars. My husband asked me “Is it awesome?” and I had to answer “no” because I could not truthfully call it “awesome”. But the thing is…it definitely is something special. I just don’t quite know how to put – you just have to get to the end so that you can feel it. When I started reading it I kind of thought that it was a great way to write a book and I should try and do this sometime. By the time I got to the second half I started to realize that I am a bit of an idiot and that there is obviously a tremendous amount of skill that goes into making something like this work. How did they do it? Did someone write an outline and then each author followed it? Or was there just a basic concept and as it progressed everyone just kind of hoped for the best? I imagine being responsible for the beginning is rather unintimidating. Being responsible for the ending would kind of be ok. But the rest? I doubt very much that I could be responsible for, say, chapter eight, and not feel a definite massive responsibility about it. All-in-all it was a great read. Something light and friendly, but also poignant and meaningful without being too preachy. I will now have to go and look up all the author names that I didn’t recognize…


A review of The Angry Woman Suite by Lee Fullbright and an opportunity to win a few prizes

The Angry Woman SuiteI haven’t done a review request in a while. I have become weary of them. To be honest when the distance between reader and writer is closed by the ability to communicate with an actual flesh-and-blood person it becomes a little difficult. You become invested. Even if you have only so much as said “hello”. I got this book through my friend Emlyn Chand’s company, Novel Publicity. I must admit that getting books through an agency is a little easier. I strive to be as honest and objective as possible, but it is hard sometimes, worrying that you will hate something and then have to admit it, knowing full well that the creator of the thing you hated is out there and will most likely see your hatred. I’ve been on the receiving end of a scathing review. They slice. But funny enough, they also teach a hell of a lot. A lot more than “good” reviews teach. Continue reading