Monday, 13 July 2009

Three reviews

I just can't seem to keep up with reviews at the moment, and it's not even as though I'm reading that much more than normal. The usual six books in June and I'm on book five for July... so that probably is a bit more than usual for this month but nevertheless... So anyway, I'm going to do three quickies again to see if I can get myself back on track. First up Henrietta's War by Joyce Dennys.

I saw this new book, from The Bloomsbury group, blogged about in several places and knew it was something I would enjoy. Basically, the story takes the form of letters written by Henrietta to her childhood friend, Robert, who is serving at the front during World War Two. She describes everyday life on the home front, digging for victory, sewing and knitting for the troops, blackout regulations, food rationing and so on. We meet various people who live in her Devon coastal village (we never learn where it is but my money's on Budleigh Salterton), Lady B who is relishing the war and writes to Hitler to tell him what she thinks of him, Henrietta's best friend, Faith, who worries that with clothing rationing she won't be able to dress fashionbly, The Conductor, who lusts after Faith, Mrs. Savernack who seems to be one scary lady, Henrietta's long suffering doctor husband, Charles, and so on. The whole thing is funny and charming and sometimes very sad when she mentions sons lost to people in the village or her worries about her own children fighting or helping in the war effort in London. A super book, lovingly illustated and just a joy really.

Next: Grey Souls by Philippe Claudel.

This 'sort of' crime book, set during and after World War One, takes place in a French village. We're not told its exact location, only that it's very close to the front. We're also not told who the narrator is, but it's clear that he's a police investigator of some sort. And I say it's a 'sort of' crime book because yes, there is a crime - the murder of a ten year old girl - but the book is not just about that. It's about the people who inhabit the village and nearby town - the prosecutor, the judge, a female teacher who comes among them, neighbours, friends, the narrator's wife etc. and how certain events were connected, how the war changed people, and the consquences of people's actions. It's a complicated little book, very melancholy, even tragic, beautifully written and very, very French. It unfolds very much like a French film, which is no surprise as the author is apparently a film director as well as a writer. A small masterpiece but not one to read if you need cheering up.

This was book 15 for my Support your local library challenge being hosted by J.Kaye.

And lastly: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer.

This is book two in the author's 'Twilight' series. Bella has settled back into life in Forks, WA, after the events of the the first book. It's her birthday and she goes to spend the evening with Edward's family, the Cullens. They're vampires of course and a chance accident when Bella cuts herself leads to chaos when one of the family can't control his bloodlust. The day after, Edward is remote and this continues until he announces that the family are leaving Forks. Bella is traumatised and spends several months in a 'living dead' sort of state. She is eventually pulled out of this by Jacob, a Native American boy, who helps Bella restore a motor cycle. At first Jacob is his usual happy self but then Bella realises the teenager has a problem. There's something going on with teenage boys in the village and things come to a head when, overnight, Jacob is no longer her friend - openly hostile in fact. And that's not her only problem. Victoria, the female member of the vampire coven who tried to kill Bella, is back with a vengeance. With Edward gone and Jacob appearing to want nothing to do with her, who will help protect Bella?

These Twilight books get quite a lot of stick but I've actually really enjoyed the two I've read. New Moon is faster paced I think than Twilight, much more going on, more complications... I liked it better. It's not great literature but then who needs that all of the time? I regard these books in the same light as Harry Potter to be honest. In other words they're page turners... Meyer, like JKR, knows exactly how to tell a good story without frills or fripperies and, to my mind anyway, that's why they're so popular. Enjoyed it.

15 comments:

DesLily said...

well dang! Three reviews! geez Cath.. it's a shame you don't read much lol.. you are on a roll lady!

Susan said...

I owe you such a big apology, Cath! I will be emailing shortly - I haven't forgotten our shared one - it's just been an awful time lately. I finally feel like catching up now here! So thank you for waiting....and I love how you did three reviews so quickly, I've got so many to review too that I think I will do the same!

Kailana said...

I can't keep up with reviews, either. Is my blog loading any better? Other people are back..

Cath said...

Yeah Pat, I really need to make time to read more, eh? *snort*

Hi Susan: there's no need to apologise. I knew you were going through a rough patch and would get back to me when you were able. We'll get to our post whenever, there's no rush.

And yeah... I'm quite enjoying doing these quick little reviews. I'm sure I'll go back to the longer ones but in the meantime this works for me.

Kailana: I hadn't checked your blog for several days - it's wasn't working back then but when I checked this afternoon it loaded fine. Hopefully it'll stay fine because I've missed visiting your blog.

Nan said...

I've entered Elaine's drawing for HW, and IF I don't win, I'll buy it very soon. I know I will love it. I don't think I could take the second one because of the death of a child. And I'm not so big on vampires. :<) But my almost 27 year old daughter said she couldn't read them fast enough - she loves those books.

Cath said...

Good luck with Elaine's draw, Nan. I hope you win a copy.

Yes, that second book involves the death of a child and I too am rather wary of that kind of thing. I can't read the 2nd. Simon Serallier novel (Susan Hill) for instance necause it involves the kidnap of a child. But this book did not actually dwell much on the actual murder. Plus there were so many other tragic things going onin it. It really is a very melancholy book and I would not recommend it to for everyone.

Oh yes, the Twilight books. I know many people who raced through all of them non-stop. I'm not *that* crazy about them, but find them fun enough to read one every now and then.

Vipula said...

Nice reviews :)
I know that Henerietta's War has been universally liked and I saw a lot of people reading it recently.
But I am not sure I agree with comparing Harry Potter series with the Twilight. I just didnt like Stephanie Meyer's books..even though they are a huge huge hit

Cath said...

Vipula: I don't mean that the plots of Harry Potter and Twilight are similar. They're not at all and I certainly wouldn't expect everyone who likes Harry Potter to like the Twilight books or vice-versa. I just mean that the two authors write page-turning books that many people just can't put down.

Tara said...

I would really like to read Henrietta's War - great review. I have a lot of books backlogged too, I must review some of them!

Vipula said...

Yes - Twilight was definitely a page turner. But for me I felt a little empty after reading it - not like HP books - satisfied and wanting more interesting stuff.
But I do know I am in the minority who don't like Twilight. Btw I watched Harry potter and the half blood prince movie yesterday - cant say I liked it much:( ( and i had so loved the book)

Cath said...

Tara: I think you would like Henrietta's War, it's so charming and funny, a little like The Diary of a Provincial Lady. Yes, so easy to fall behind with reviews...

Vipula: I would definitely say that I much prefer Harry Potter to Twilight. HP has so many wonderful characters and such a lot of humour. I went to see the new movie on Wednesday and absolutely loved it.

Book Psmith said...

My daughter has been trying to get me to read the Twilight books but I just can't seem to make the commitment. I know I should at least give them a try. Henrietta's War sounds more like my cup of tea. I don't know why but I couldn't help giggling when I read about Lady B giving Hitler what for.

Cath said...

Book Psmith: the Twilight books are quite a commitment as they are huge, but they do read quickly. I'm happy to read one every now and then rather than four books in a row. Plus of course they're not for everyone and many just don't care for them at all.

Henrietta's War is just a lovely read... a bit similar to Diary of a Provincial Lady if you've read that, but slightly lighter. I was going to point you in the direction of a book draw for it but I think it finished a couple of days ago, and Nan who commented here, won a copy!

Danielle said...

I've added the Claudel book to my list--thanks for the heads up on that one! I also have Henrietta's War ready to go, and will fit it in eventually. I read the first two Twilight books and enjoyed them, but I think I'll wait for the movies for the rest.

Cath said...

Danielle: I wouldn't recommend Grey Souls to everyone but I am reasonably sure that it's your kind of thing. It's stayed with me in the several weeks since I read it too - a powerful piece of writing all told.

The two Twilight books I've read, I've liked, but will probably wait a bit to read the third. I'm not in the bracket of folk who have devoured them all in a week. They're good, but not 'great', imo.