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Bream Reading Club Reviews Different Seasons by Stephen King

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Different Seasons by Stephen King

 

Stars out of 5.    3

 

Overall the club members didn’t really enjoy this book. It is made up of four novella’s which perhaps we should have read piecemeal instead.

The first story is what the movie Shawshank Redemption is based on, it is excellent and memorable and for those who had watched the movie you couldn’t help hearing Morgan Freeman’s voice for Red.

The second story Apt Pupil is psychologically frightening and fascinating, another gold star for Stephen King.

The last two stories were not enjoyed at all unfortunately, the third felt like a ramble, the fourth was just too weird and not particularly scary.

As always Stephen King is the master, occasionally the endings are a let-down but his setting up of a story cannot be beat.

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Bream Reading Club Reviews The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

 

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The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Stars out of 5 – 3 Stars

There were many good things to say about this book. It was written very well. The main character has a very distinctive voice and was relatable. The emotional elements were written sparingly but with great care and respect. It was with emotional intelligence.

The story revolves around the death of an older brother and how the younger brother comes apart at the seams in his grief. His mind fractures and watching his downward trajectory is difficult but moving at the same time. The mother takes a great deal of her grief out on the surviving son, isolating him, almost torturing him in an emotional way, perhaps if she had received the help she needed he wouldn’t have had to carry so much. His dad is virtually absent and the only normal influence in his life is his grandmother. A truly loving and understanding person.

You are taken through his hospitalisation and rehab centre which from his perspective wasn’t easy at all. The end does bring some closure and perhaps even hope and new beginning for a young man who has been through far too much in a very short space of time.

An empathetic and well written story of what a descent into mental illness is really like.

Bream Reading Club Reviews The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Total Stars out of 5: 4

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a very surprising book. It may appear a little comical on the surface but we all agreed it was a very moving book.

At first the journey is meandering and the public getting involved and taking over Harold’s pilgrimage is really annoying, very realistic, but still annoying.

It is gripping emotionally and painful in places. Showing you how memories skew with time and you have to strip each layer away to get to the truth of what happened. Harold and his wife Maureen discovered that being separated from each other by distance reminded them how much they missed each other.

It is ultimately a journey of healing, for Harold, Maureen and lots of people that meet them along the way. The ending was exceptionally honest and satisfying.

Bream Reading Club Reviews: Addition by Toni Jordan

 

Photo 02-02-2018, 21 12 28Stars out of 5: 3 Stars

A thoroughly different and original work touching on difficult subjects and still managing to keep it humorous. The Reading Club decided to call it a ‘Pysch Romance’. It’s better not to ask what on earth that means…! Some of us liked it, others didn’t, the reason being they didn’t like the personality of Grace, finding her a little too harsh in her opinions.

Our main character has an OCD surrounding counting and it had completely taken over her life. In walks Seamus the handsome and perfectly average guy that turns her life on its head.

Instead of a stereotypical story of her falling in love and getting treatment, and being ‘cured’, (which is impossible) we are taken on a very realistic and rather scary story of how it really is enduring a mental illness and everyone ‘trying to help you’. It is raw and painful at times watching her lose herself until she is a drowsy, overweight, unemotional being constantly watching TV.

The end of the book is still very hopeful, she takes back control of her life and though she stops her medication and her treatment it is very clear that she has learnt to be more adaptable, actually uses her compulsion to get herself a job, which she does very well indeed. Her relationships are improved tremendously, she comes out the other side better for the experience.

Bream Reading Club Reviews The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

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The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Stars out of 5: 2.5

At one end of the spectrum our members really enjoyed this book, on the other end the word used was ‘insufferable’.

To break it down, The Historian is an in-depth tracking down of the real Draculya, not the Hollywood version but the historical man as well as the mythology surrounding him. The book is weighed down in detail, and relies far too much on letters to convey vast amounts of information. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is mentioned a number of times in the book as if to form a direct comparison. Letters are also used in Bram’s book, but they used far more effectively.

The true genius of this book was the way different time lines were woven together with apparent ease. Every character is carefully maintained in each story stream and you learn each characters history as well as the historical quest they are following. The prose is many places is beautiful and exceptionally well written.

The disappointment is that the characters never truly find their voice. They are more like cardboard cut outs filling in their scenes with no development or growth. None of us became invested in any of the characters no matter what threat they were facing. It appeared to us that the characters were sacrificed entirely on the altar of pure history.

Too many times this book read like a dry history, something more akin to a textbook than anything suspenseful, which appeared to us to be a lost opportunity that could have been something truly epic.

Bream Reading Club Reviews The Shining by Stephen King

51Kf+jjhR0L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Stars out of 5:  3.5

For two of our members this was re-read so they didn’t enjoy as much as they did the first time round. That said we all agreed there were parts so well written you had to stop and just think about them, and other parts that were unnecessary in being over-descriptive and a bit of a waffle.

Discussing the characters:

The Boy: Danny was written as a far more mature character than a real 5 year old would be, since all of us are mothers, that part stood out for all the wrong reasons. Even though his parents acknowledged his maturity, his emotional maturity being that high just wasn’t believable. His perceptions are clear and uncluttered and his emotional development at the end of the book is far more realistic. Danny’s character is way better on his own compared to when he is interacting with his parents.

The Father: Jack’s alcoholism and uncontrolled anger is written exceptionally well, he is a person who doesn’t take responsibility for his actions, he is an addict, and he is selfish and ultimately thinks a great deal more of himself than is healthy. He begins as an angry addict forcing himself to stop and hates how his past keeps getting thrown back in his face. He hates how his wife surreptitiously checks his breath. He hates how people don’t trust him anymore. He wants all the past badness to be erased and trust fully restored. His relationship with his own father offers some explanations for his behaviour and attitudes towards alcoholism, bullying, assault and women. His stay at the hotel takes him down the road to madness and his rage seems to speed him along that path.

The Mother: Wendy is interesting in her psychological dependence on Jack and the thread that runs back to her own mother. She cannot leave Jack because going back to her mother would be ‘worse’. Why could she not stand on her own? She appears to have no other recourse. She is portrayed as conflicted, wishing to keep her family together despite undeniable proof that something is very wrong. She continues to hope unrealistically to achieve some ‘happy family’ somewhere down the line. At the hotel her strength shows far more, and ultimately she protects her son and herself from her maniac of a husband.

The Hero: (In our view) Mr Halloran.  The most well rounded character in the whole book. Wise, funny, practical, kind and courageous, salt of the earth kind of person. He takes Danny under his wing so to speak and makes sure that Danny knows he has a friend he can call on if he gets into trouble.

Discussing the Story:

It is essentially a ‘haunted house’ story. Jack gets hired as the winter caretaker of a long established hotel with a checkered history. He brings his family with him. Danny is psychic and can read surface thoughts, Mr Halloran refers to this as ‘shine’ as he too has this skill though Danny is the strongest one he has ever come across. With Danny’s super perception he sees a whole lot more at that hotel and it is frightening to him. In a short time Jack is being influenced negatively by the malevolent spirits in the hotel which ultimately compel him to murder his own family. The spirits want Danny because of his amazing gift. The story has a happy ending in that Jack’s body is killed by Wendy in self-defence, Mr Halloran arrives just in time to save Danny and Wendy, the hotel blows up because the boiler ‘creeps’ and the malevolent spirit is torn free of the hotel and is pulled apart by the wind. Wendy and Danny start a new life, where Wendy is standing on her own feet and Mr Halloran is a firm family friend.

The issues:

There are elements that didn’t make sense. There was overstatement, some repetition and too much description. The fright parts were well written, designed to make you startle. There were some areas that had such potential but weren’t explored.

Mr Halloran experiences obstacles his entire trip back to the hotel on his rescue mission. If this stalling was meant to be suspenseful it wasn’t necessary. The nail biting wait for him to get there was already enough. Were the ghosts making it next to impossible for him to get there? Was Danny’s proximity to the ghosts making this possible?

The Unanswerables:

Why were the hedge animals outside the hotel so powerful when the ghosts inside weren’t?

There was a malevolent spirit in the shed where the snow mobiles were kept too, not just at the hotel, so why didn’t the ghosts from the hotel flee to the shed to survive a little longer?

A good read but disappointing in places.

Bream Reading Club Review ‘Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

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Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Total Stars out of 5: 2 Stars

Review by Reading Club member.

Having staggered through to the end of this book I thought that it was an extremely long-winded way of telling a very short story.

A rather naïve teenage girl is seriously manipulated by a deceased uncle into caring for his sick partner, who is similarly manipulated into caring for his late lover’s favourite niece. End of….

The background is unusual, being set in the 1980’s, when Aids was a full-on media subject, but what are we supposed to do about it? Are we supposed to reflection how far we’ve come since then both in medicine and in social attitudes? If so, Brunt doesn’t make a very convincing case and anyway, do we really want to go over all that again? It was a particularly unpleasant time and hopefully, we’ve lost our prejudices and have become more liberal without having to resort to fiction.

The best bits of the book are psychological studies of the two teenage girls, June the favoured niece and Greta the waspish elder sister. Devoid of parental interaction – both parents are both heavily engaged in the ‘tax season’ – they have more freedom that they can handle and the emotional ups and downs of June’s relationship with Toby, Uncle Finn’s dying partner, and Greta’s bitchiness towards her younger sister are long drawn out and irritating.

Both girls are believable characters however, and the reader does become anxious for the well-being of both of them as June descends into emotional confusion and Greta hits the bottle.

In fact the last few chapters really are the most interesting part, and spur the reader on to complete what is otherwise a tedious narrative.

I like reading circle books with discussion points at the end, but in this case the topics on page 370-1 are largely hypothetical. The three I really agree with are 3, 6 and 8. Finn was a psychological blackmailers, a manipulative user of both June and Toby.

All in the name of love? I really don’t think so.

Bream Reading Club Reviews The Keep by Jennifer Egan

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The Keep by Jennifer Egan

3.1 stars out of 5 stars

One of our members wrote this as their comments on the book and I thought it was so perfect that I would just share it as is!

“Three stars I think – the main interest for me was the style of the narrative.  The fictional author (Ray) keeps popping into the narrative with the exploits of his cell mate, fellow convicts and a writing class with a tutor called Holly.  Ray’s own narrative with characters, Dan, Howie, Ann and Mick, is chaotic, but true to the character of its fictitious author, who is after all writing for the first time in constrained circumstances.   Ray, serving life for murder, has to rely on his imagination, which is prolific and (possibly) fueled by more than prison tea.  His narrative includes some nightmare scenarios e.g. Dan knocking off a ninety year-old baroness and having spooky experiences around a stinking cesspit of a bathing pool, but some are undeniably comical, such as when he’s hanging on to a window ledge by the toes of his boots, trying to spy on Mick and Ann conversation.

The real author skilfully weaves the two narratives together and introduces in the final section another narrator, Holly the writing class tutor, who thinks she is in love with Ray and is as screwed up as her former students.

An interesting book, not for those who like a nice story with a beginning, middle and a happy ending, but quite satisfying if you like to work at what you’re reading while enjoying it.

All in all, a dark psychological tale, in parts echoing a bad dope trip!” 

Some of our members were none too impressed with the book as it was either ‘two books trying to be one book’, it was ‘too contrived’ and had ‘too many loose ends’. The ghostly bits were unsettling instead of just being scary. Certain characters are just not explained properly like the Baroness, and the teacher closing off the narrative was ‘pointless’. The fictional castle then being real struck them as being forced.

Those of us who enjoyed the book thought it had flashes of brilliance, how the ‘real’ writer wove the tale from ‘fiction’ to ‘reality’ and the huge twist at the end we thought was clever and skillful. The end where Holly dives into the very pool Ann speaks of in her little imaginings of the future of the castle is a satisfying ending.

Bream Reading Club Reviews ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette?’ by Maria Semple

 

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Bream Reading Club met tonight to review Where’d You Go Bernadette? By Maria Semple.

We all agreed that it is a brilliant book, thought provoking, satirical, profound and very well written. One thing we didn’t like was the cover of the book! It gave the impression that the target audience were those who love ‘chick lit’ or something else a bit trivial – something the book very well is not. We all agreed that we would not have picked it up if given the choice. In this case it was me who took a gamble and reserved the book and thankfully I hit upon a gem.

The book touches on many themes, the main one in our view being destruction and reconstitution. The 20 Mile House was the beginning of the destruction, of a house and a life, and it didn’t end until rebuilding truly began at the end of the book.

We saw the dilapidated state of the house at Straight Gate as a mirror for Bernadette herself. The house was barely liveable, certain areas were completely barricaded off because of being so hazardous and Bernadette’s tactics to get by in the house were the same type of skills she was using to get by in life. Ultimately the house would come down, and so does Bernadette, as only in that way can rebuilding begin.

The relationship between Bernadette and her neighbour Audrey is at once comedic and sad and perhaps even stereotypical of the super involved PTA mum not getting on with parents who are not as involved, no matter what their reasons may be. Audrey’s character is obnoxious at best but she does redeem herself and the reading club imagined that Bernadette and Audrey may get along quite well after the change in both their perspectives.

Coming to the relationship between Bernadette and Elgie (her husband) is a show of how a marriage falls apart when partners do not communicate with each other. Bernadette leans on ‘Manjula’ the virtual assistant to get normal life done and keeps it from Elgie as she knows he will only get mad about it. We found her behaviour to be reasonable considering what she had been through and was still going through. She clearly had depression, anxiety and was hiding away from life in general, especially being in trailer a great deal of the time. The only one who really understood her was Bee her daughter.

A moment in the book that irritated us badly was Elgie giving in and sleeping with this assistant. Yes, he was vulnerable and she was hero worshiping him and almost stalking him, but that is still a poor excuse and we labelled him weak willed. We also thought that perhaps in a small way he was getting back at Bernadette over her lying to him about ‘Manjula’ and exposing their identities and finances to a stranger, who in reality was not a virtual assistant but Russian criminals posing as such.

The most steadfast relationship is between Bernadette and Bee. No matter what happens Bee with her astonishing level of maturity sees things for what they are and she is committed to Bernadette’s cause. She appears to be in denial about her mother’s disappearance but in reality she is the one who knows more than the adults.

The trip to Antarctica is where much of the hurt and miscommunication is finally resolved. Bee asks her father what the difference is between Manjula and Samantha 2 (his huge Microsoft project) which helps him to see that Bernadette’s transgression isn’t as unforgivable as he thinks. During the trip Bee and her father’s relationships is mended, and Elgie himself finally sees hope in finding Bernadette and gives himself completely to it. Bee’s belief is completely vindicated. The happy ending is especially poignant because in Bee’s searching for her mother, Bernadette has had the time to find herself.

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