Cripple Creek by James Sallis

imageA year after the events in Cypress Grove, life for Tuner – the main character – is pretty good. He is settled, with a job as a deputy and a girlfriend (Val) who seems the perfect fit for him, a woman who wants – need – her own space as much as he does. It isn’t necessarily where he thought he would be but it seems like a good place to end up for someone who has been a policeman, convict, and psychiatrist among other things. He life is simple and he is accepted for who he is in the small southern town he has landed in.

Then, a young man is arrested for drunk driving. He has close to a quarter of a million dollars in his bag in the boot of his car. Not what you would expect to find…and neither is the jailbreak that follows, leaving the sheriff seriously injured. The trail leads Turner back to Memphis, where he was a cop and a killer, not somewhere he wants to be. Life, though, is rarely what he wants and that’s the case in Cripple Creek where things go from bad to worse for Turner.

Having read more than a few James Sallis books this isn’t a surprise. His stories tend to be quite dark, full of troubled characters and broken lives. Yet, generally, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t find that here and I felt a little sad at the end as a result. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it though, I did, and I grew to like Turner as a character more than I already did. No matter how many things he might have done, in his heart he is a good person and I’d want him on my side in a fight. He is true to himself and others and his back story, woven through the book in short chapters, helps explain why he is who he is.

This way of telling his story is the same in Cypress Grove, which I think it would help to read first but isn’t absolutely necessary, and it’s one I like – as is Sallis’ sparse writing style and way of setting the scene and painting a picture of a world I don’t really know at all. Still, I feel I know Turner’s south – the good, the bad, and the gritty. I’m not sure it’s a place I would want to live but I do want to keep reading about it…

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November 9 by Colleen Hoover

imageI’m not much of a one for romance I must admit and so when November 9 was selected for Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s online book club (you can join here on facebook) I did have a bit of an “oh oh” moment.  Still, reading books you wouldn’t normally is all part of being in a book club so off I went and bought a copy.

November 9 is the story of two teenagers, Fallon and Ben, who meet on the day Fallon is about to move from LA to New York to start her life again after living in limbo for two years since being injured in a house fire.

They spend the day together and then, as Ben takes Fallon to the airport, agree to meet at the same time / in the same place the following year and every year after that for five years – or until they are 23 because that is the age Fallon has decided you are old enough to know your own mind.

It’s a familiar idea, and I was reminded of movies like An Affair to Remember where misunderstandings and miscommunications lead to lots of heartache before everything turns out well in the end (it has to right, this is a romance?).  Saying that, though, it didn’t feel old or stale because  Colleen Hoover has a really nice writing style.  The novel and the story felt fresh and modern and I found that I really liked Ben and Fallon.

I did find them a little to old for their ages – I am not sure I would have been quite as wise as Ben when I was 18 – at least on the surface.  Then their actions showed just how young and naïve they really were.  It meant there were layers to the plot I didn’t expect and I found myself turning the pages quicker and quicker as the book went on.  I had to know how it ended.  And, whilst I may have let slip, there is a happy ending (spoilers – sorry!) there is a great twist before you get there that I didn’t see coming.

Will I rush out and buy another romance novel as a result of this? probably not but I may well pick up another book by Colleen Hoover when I come across it because I liked November 9 a lot.

Emma

 

 

November Round-Up

November was a bit of a strange month reading wise because I was in a slump. I’d had such a good October that it probably had to happen. To try and get myself out of it, I had a week of reading short stories. It worked and I discovered some new authors as a result, which was a bonus. Here’s what worked, and didn’t, for me this month.

Loved

imageAll told, I read one book I loved this month, Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. I had heard great things about it and was a bit worried I would be disappointed. I wasn’t. It was a really interesting story with great characters and great twist. I couldn’t stop turning pages. Highly recommended!

 

Liked a Lot

imageTwo of the three I liked a lot were short stories, The Octopus Nest by Sophie Hannah which I thought was really clever and well written and A Sheltered Woman by Yiyun Li, possibly the comple opposite of Sophie Hannah in that it was intimate portrait of a Chinese American Nanny – who only stays with families for the first month after the baby is born.

2547263The last of the three books I liked a lot was Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith and it wasn’t much longer than the short stories, coming in at around 80 pages. Part of the Canongate Myth series it took a new, feminist look at a story from Ancient Greece and made it very relevant.

 

Liked

23624909Two more short stories made the list here, BBC national short story winner Briar Road by Jonathan Buckley and The Memory Man by Helen Smith. Both took different looks at the world of psychics, showing how being able to talk to the dead might not be quite a blessing some might think it is.

 

imageThe short stories gave me the motivation to pick back up Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt, which I enjoyed though not as much as I had hoped. It was a little too long so felt like it ran out of steam for me, though it was a good idea and well written. My main problem was not liking the main character. I may be in the minority here though.

Not for me

902743The characters were a big part of the problem in the two books that just did nothing for me.  In Fair Play by Tove Jansson they felt too stylised and I just couldn’t warm to them or quite get why they were behaving how they did, whilst in The Bed I Made by Lucie Whitehouse the bad guy was just not bad enough and the central character left me cold.

These two were at the start of the month and I am laying blame for my reading slump firmly at their door 😄. Thankfully, things did pick up and all in all it wasn’t a bad November in hindsight. How was yours – what should I be looking for or avoiding in December?

Emma

This Week, Next Week: 29th November, 2015

Hi there – and a belated Happy Sunday. I’m hoping those in the states got to enjoy their long thanksgiving weekend. With my husband being from the states we celebrated Thursday but because we live in the UK there was no day to recover from over eating. It was back to work, which has been really busy for me as I’m changing roles (same company) and trying to do both my new and old jobs…which will be the case through the end of December unfortunately.

Still it’s a challenge and one I probably need to be honest because I’ve been doing the same job for 8 years now. When I wasn’t working, I spent a fair bit of time just vegging in front of the tele. I am now hooked on Jessica Jones and we’ve been watching quite a good show on Sky called The Last Panther which I can recommend, not just because it has John Hurt in it who I love.

This did mean, though, that I didn’t get much time for books or blogging. I managed two posts all week, one a Tuesday Intro for a book I’ve only just managed to finish today (The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Parrick Ness) and one review for a book I have to say is more disappointing in hindsight than I thought at the time – Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt.

It also meant I didn’t get a chance to add any books to the piles, though this is probably a good thing as the pile might fall over! This week coming, I’m determined to turn off the TV and read some of them. I also plan on posting a review for the Patrick Ness book this week and November 9, which I finished over a week ago now (I’m in danger of forgetting what happened!)

What about you, what are you reading this week?

Emma

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) with Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

Tuesday Intro: 24th November, 2015

Once again this week I’m linking up with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. I really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

imageThis week, I’m reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. It’s young adult so not my normal read but I am trying to step outside the box with my reading a bit more and it looked interesting when I saw it on the shelf at the library.

Here’s what it’s about…

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

And here’s how it starts…

On the day we’re the last people to see indie kid Finn alive, we’re all sprawled together in the Field, talking about love and stomachs.

“I don’t believe that, though,” my sister says, and I look up at the slight tension in her voice. She gives me a half-annoyed nod of reassurance in the sunshine, then shakes her head again at Henna. “You always have a choice. I don’t care if you think it’s love –and by the way, NOT a word you should throw around so easily –but even if that, even if that word, you can still choose to act right.”

What do you ink? Would you keep reading?

emma

Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt

imageWhen Estelle Paradise wakes up, she finds herself in a hospital bed with no memory of how she got there.  The doctors tell her she’s been in a car accident.  And she’s been shot.  And her daughter, Mia, is missing.  Nothing makes sense and nothing adds up.

In an effort to keep her out of prison (and possibly save his own reputation), her husband has her admitted to a psychiatric hospital where Estelle struggles to try and figure out the truth of what happened to her and her little girl.

At first, all she remembers is the crying.  Mia cried (or cries) a lot and Estelle was struggling to cope.  Her husband relocated for work and she moved into a new home in an effort to save them money.  It is entirely possible it all became too much for her. Slowly, though, with the help of her doctor, memories start to come back and, it seems, Estelle might not be as guilty as everyone thinks after all.

To a degree, I can’t say I cared too much – because I just couldn’t warm to Estelle.  I wanted to.  In fact, I needed to because she was the only constant through the book and this was her story, but it just wasn’t happening for me.  It is a shame really but not every reader can like every character so I wouldn’t not recommend reading it because of this because there are a lot of positives.

Alexandra Burt does a great job of leaving you guessing through most of the book (which is quite long at just over 450 pages) just what has happened to Mia and just what Estelle’s role in it is.  The ending has a clever twist, though it does meander a bit too much at the point it’s revealed.  That said, this is a debut novel, and so I can forgive this because I thought it was well written and clever.  I just wish I could have liked Estelle as it means I liked vs. loved this book.

Have you read it – what did you think of Estelle?

Emma

p.s. this has also been released as Remember Mia

This Week, Next Week: 22nd November, 2015

Happy Sunday everyone – hope you are having a good weekend. As nearly always, ours seemed or go too fast. It’s also been a bit boring as we’ve been stuck in the house a lot due to the weather. Having moved to a new area, we are slowly figuring out where things are but it’s rainy days that make us realise how little we know is out there to do (that doesn’t involve getting soaked). We’ll get there though and today we are going to check out a new trampoline park that is apparently for all the family and includes trampolines on walls? Hopefully it will be fun and not result in broken limbs…wish me luck!

imageBook wise, I had a good week and got out of my reading slump thanks to some short stories I decided to read for national shorty story week. I enjoyed each of the stories I read but my favourites was The Octopus Nest by Sophie Hannah which had the best twist at the end, plus she’s an author I really like reading – she has a great writing style.

The short stories were the break I needed and in the end, meant I also felt motivated enough to finish Little Girl Gone by Rebecca Burke (review to follow this week) and get most of the way through November 9 by Colleen Hoover for Kimba’s book club.  I hope to finish that today.

What I’ll read after that I’m not sure. I have a bit of a backlog from recent weeks so I am going to try and get that down but I did add two books to the pile also, How to be Bad by E. Lockhart, by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle, and Sarah Mlynowski and The Rest of Us Just Live Her by Patrick Ness, which has really caught my eye so may be the one Images link to Goodreads)

How to Be BadThe Rest of Us Just Live Here

Have you read either – what do you think? What else are you reading / up to this week?

Emma

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) with Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

The Octopus Nest, a short story by Sophie Hannah

imageFor my final short story this week I went for one of my favourite authors, Sophie Hannah. I found The Octopus Nest online at my local library. It’s from a full collection – The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets – and I guess was released as a teased (back in 2008 so I’ve missed it somehow).

In it, Claire and Tim come home to find their babysitter has made a rather strange discovery. The same woman is in almost all their holiday photos for the last decade. Album after album shows the same thing. They have, it seems, a stalker. Or at least that’s what Claire thinks. She might, though, be wrong.

At first I thought this was another spooky story but creepy is more like it. It’s also suspenseful and has a great twist in the tale, one I didn’t seem coming – which I love. It is well written, drawing me in quickly. The characters were well drawn, all through Claire’s eyes, and I felt my nerves stretch as I wondered just what was going on.

As I said, I missed the book this was taken from, but it’s now on order. I can’t wait for it to arrive and hope all the stories are as good as this one. Liked it a lot!

Emma

A Sheltered Woman, a short story by Yiyun Li

After yesterday’s BBC 2015 prize winner for best short story review, today I read The Times’ 2015 short story winner. Partly because I liked the sound of it but also because I wanted to compare the stories and see if I could hone my short story reading palette. I can’t say I succeeded with the later, though I did enjoy today’s story just a little bit more.

I think that is because it was different – there were no spooky goings on here – but also because it was a subject I know little about – Chinese American culture and I felt like I got a little glimpse into this world though Auntie Mei, a baby nanny.

A baby nanny is one who only stays for the first month of the babies life and takes care of child and mother. Auntie Mei is good at it and in demand – she has looked after 131 babies all told. She doesn’t get attached and she doesn’t linger, moving on as soon as the child is a month old. Her latest job, though, has her thinking it might be time for a change.

As with the other short stories this week, I was amazed by how much Li got into so few pages (16) and how real the character of Auntie Mei felt to me, how well I thought I knew her and her life by the end. She is an interesting woman with an interesting last, one who has made some very non-traditional choices in a pretty traditional world.

Li has a great way with words and painted a really detailed picture of a small slice of life. I have not read anything by her before but definitely will be now! Another well worth a read.

Emma

Briar Road, a short story by Jonathan Buckley

Next up for me short story wise this week, in recognition of national short story week, is Briar Road by Jonathan Buckley.

bbcnssa_2015_logo_webBriar Rose won the BBC national short story award for 2015 and – like yesterday’s The Memory Man – has a supernatural element to it as a psychic tries to help a family find out what has happened to their missing daughter. She visits their house, holds a séance, but can’t give them the answers they want.

I found the portrayals of the family and their reactions to the psychic’s visit very real – each was very different and not everyone’s was what you might expect.  Then there was the psychic herself – I loved her cynicism (“It’s a wonderfully written story, rich on the small details that drew me in.  On first reading, it seemed very simple but there was a lot of emotion here.”).

I can’t say I’m the best judge of a short story, as with all things we like what we like, but I can see why it won – this was a well written story that drew me in quickly and had me caring for the characters within a few paragraphs – something that is hard to do.  Well worth a read.

Emma