Book Review | A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe

french wedding cover.jpegUsing chapters with alternating character focus, A French Wedding tells the story of a group of university friends from the UK who are reunited in France for one of their 40th birthday celebrations. Max, a musician, plans to propose to his friend Helen. They’ve always shared a close connection. Max’s chef and housekeeper Juliette is drawn into the group as events progress. Plans go awry as faults in the friends’ marriages and relationships are revealed and surprise events lead to a shift in the plot.

Well written and easy to follow, Tunnicliffe’s novel offers an entertaining read with enough depth to be thought-provoking. The story is more character driven than plot driven, and can be considered women’s fiction. Perhaps the cover image does not do justice in attracting all readers who may enjoy this book. Central themes include relationships, cooking and life challenges. Check it out from a library near youI received this bound galley as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A French Wedding, you may be interested in Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (2014).

Film Review | The Daughter starring Sam Neill & Geoffrey Rush

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After many years away from his birth town and father, middle-aged Christian returns home to attend his father’s second wedding. The relationship between father and son is tense, owing to something other than the fact that the upcoming wedding involves the 31 year old housekeeper his father had previously employed. As Christian reunites with his old friend Oliver, he pieces a few old secrets together that threaten to break apart Oliver’s family.

This Australian drama based on Henrik Ibsen’s play provided much more than I’d bargained for. The story line was intriguing and the characters were easy to relate to. The acting was very realistic without anything being overdone. Music set to the film worked quite well and served to enhance the movie overall. While the budget for this film couldn’t have been too much with it’s rural setting, I’m actually surprised it hadn’t drummed up more attention in the film world. Though it may bring on a few tears, The Daughter is certainly worth checking out from your local library!

Book Review | The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasm

story-of-a-brief-marriage-by-anuk-arudpragasmThe Sri Lankan Civil War occurred from 1983-2009 and claimed more than 100,000 victims. Arudpragasm’s first novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage, takes place during the war and provides an acute and brief view into one young man’s evacuation and displaced life in a camp. While the protagonist’s marriage does take place during the story, I didn’t feel it was the book’s focus as the title suggests.

For a first novel, this book is definitely a success. The language used is very descriptive, but still easy enough to read without too much concentration. The story is clear and flows well enough, but it was not engrossing. Because of the book’s specific subject matter and focus, it serves well as a window into a situation most people will never experience. This book isn’t the fun read to cheer you up type, but it is deep and thought provoking without being overbearing. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

indexAfter the death of her husband Bernard, Harriet embarks on a cruise to Alaska. She is supposed to be accompanied by her best friend Mildred, but instead she is accompanied by a letter from Mildred explaining an affair between the best friend and Harriet’s late husband. This letter would be disturbing in its own right, but it is accompanied by appearances from Bernard’s ghost. While this seems light and off-hand, the pieces of Harriet’s life that are revealed form a serious story of depth with reflection.

Evison has created an engaging read with This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! Harriet isn’t the most likable character, but it is interesting to hear about specific important events that happened during her 78 year long fictitious life. As a daughter, I found myself relating to certain passages where Harriet and her middle aged daughter are trying to get along despite issues from their shared past. I cannot rave about this book and say it’s one of the best I’ve read, but it did pass the time and the story was clear and without too much introduction. Perhaps one of my favorite things about the book was the format. Short chapters revealing various, non-chronological episodes from Harriet’s life made for very quick reading. This book would likely be of interest to retirees cruising to Alaska, comfortable widows, or people interested in the challenges of aging. Check if out from a library near you.

Book Review | Monster’s Chef : a novel by Jervey Tervalon

book cover Monster's chef : a novel / Jervey Tervalon.Mr. Gibson has lost his wife and his NYC restaurant to his cocaine addiction and landed himself in the slammer. Nine months later, in a halfway house, he makes a personal connection that lands him a new gig (on parole) in Southern California as personal chef to Monster, a Michael Jackson-like, eccentric celebrity musician. Gibson signs a non-disclosure agreement and lives in a bungalow on the secured grounds. As Monster and Gibson become more acquainted, and other slightly off-base characters appear, Gibson has to choose who to trust and how to proceed – especially when a dead body turns up outside his bungalow.

I grabbed Monster’s Chef off the new fiction shelves at the library. The jacket description sounded alright, the book wasn’t too thick and I figured I’d quit if it didn’t work out. Tervalon’s writing style here is easy to read, though some characters seem unable to explain themselves. The characters are imaginable, but as other critics have mentioned, fairly flat. The idea of a rich music mogul holed up in a private mansion with a moat on his own mountain was interesting, but the suspense that was promised never really arrived. This book was okay, but when I’d finished it, I questioned whether it had been worth the time. Have a read from a library near you.

Book Review | Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus

book cover Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff BackhausIncorporating Eastern and Western cultural elements, Backhaus’ well crafted breakout novel is an enjoyable and memorable read. Hikikomori and the Rental Sister relays the tale of withdrawn Thomas, his desperate wife Silke and the rental sister hired to be his friend, Megumi. Thomas has withdrawn from the outside world and imprisons himself in his locked bedroom for a crime he feels he committed. Silke continues to go to work and live in the apartment with Thomas though she has not seen his face in three years. At wit’s end she hires Megumi in a final attempt to coax Thomas out of his room and back into the world of the living. As an outsider, Megumi is able to connect with Thomas and an unexpected relationship grows between the two of them.

This book jumps right in without unnecessary background information. The story is immediately interesting as the reader is given a view into quite an unusual situation. Focus shifts between Thomas and Megumi providing for an important change of narrative scenery. Backhaus gives adequate description of the characters to bring them alive, but without bogging down the text with superfluous detail. The prose are tight and clear. I stumbled on this book accidentally at the library and picked it up because I’ve been waiting for Haruki Murakami’s newest book to be released in English this August. Fans of Murakami will appreciate the relationships that Backhaus develops here coupled with the desperation the various characters face. Check out Hikikomori and the Rental Sister from your local library.

Book Review | The Silent Wife : a novel by A. S. A. Harrison

book cover The Silent Wife : a novel by A. S. A. HarrisonNew York Times Bestsellers aren’t usually what I find myself reading, but despite an overdose of adjectives and more SAT vocabulary than I’ve encountered since high school, The Silent Wife was a decent read that kept me interested. I appreciated how the author alternated focus evenly between the male and female protagonists a chapter at a time. Though most of the events and actions taking place were rather commonplace, Harrison’s writing somehow made them more involved. This was not a book I tore through, but I did find myself thinking about getting back to reading it while I was doing other things.

The plot can be mostly summarized in a few sentences. Man and woman have lived together as a couple for 20 years in a Chicago lakefront condo. The man becomes depressed, and though his wife is a shrink, he finds more of a cure in an affair with his close friend’s daughter. The mistress becomes pregnant and sweeps the man up, convincing him to move out of his condo and get an apartment with her while she avidly plans their wedding. The shrink feels her world crumbling before her and takes matters into her own hands to settle the score. Holds abound, check your local library for a copy.