Posts Tagged ‘summer reads’

The Thirty List, by Eva Woods

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

 

517UM8BXNULI love lists. I make lists for everything from shopping lists, to lists of things I want to do in the coming year. They help me remember, clarify and stay focused. Forget the iPhone Generation, when I think of the ‘listicles’ that appear on Buzzfeed I know we’re the List Generation. Which is what is so initially appealing about The Thirty List: a romantic comedy that tells the story of Rachel, newly separated from her husband, who draws up a list of all the things she’d meant to do before turning thirty and sets about ticking them off. We all have that list. The one with the big things on it, our hopes and dreams, but how many of us actually tackle them? Rachel jumps in wholeheartedly, and as they say, hilarity ensues.

Woods deftly weaves the tender pathos of Rachel’s broken marriage and impending divorce, with deep belly laugh inducing jokes at the perils of house hunting in London, trying to find a job, trying to make a living, and the day to day troubles that concern most of us. Structuring the story around Rachel’s list, the reader is soon invested in not only the completing of the tasks but also the reconstruction of Rachel’s life. Forced to move in with a grumpy man named Patrick and his four year old son Alex, Rachel corrals her new landlord into writing his own list and this is where the fun really starts. I snorted with laughter at moments in this book, and kept shouting out bits to my companions: ‘Listen to this bit! So funny!’

But Woods is more than a writer of great jokes, the pace and depth of this warm hearted tale built to a real moment of crisis I did not see coming, and one which moved me to tears. There is love and heartbreak and hope in this book: a perfect summer read. Put reading it at the top of your to-do list.

The Thirty List, by Eva Woods: top of my list 5/5

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One Minute Critique: The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton

| One Minute Critique, One Minute Critique Books

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The early arrival of my new nephew delayed this review of Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. When I got the 5am call to baby-action I grabbed a handful of things enroute: spare pants, phone, wallet, house keys, and my copy of The Miniaturist. Come hell, high water, or a screaming baby I wasn’t going to miss out on what happened next. That’s how gripping this book is.

The Miniaturist is the story of eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman, who arrives to start her new life as wife of successful merchant trader Johannes Brandt, in Amsterdam 1686. Her husband is not at her grand new home to greet her. Instead Nella encounters her sharp-tongued sister-in-law Marin. Things are off to a shaky start. When Nella enlists the help of a mysterious miniaturist to furnish Johannes’ wedding gift of a cabinet-sized replica of their house, dangerous secrets start to surface.

Burton crams historical, visual and sensory detail into The Miniaturist. But far from leaden, her descriptions are as richly satisfying and as deftly executed as the sugar dusted treats that appear throughout the book. Seventeenth century Amsterdam is alive.

But its the pace and suspense of The Miniaturist which really elevates it. Taut and heart-stopping on occasion, Nella grabs you by the hand and runs with you through her life. A staggering story, full of emotional punch, this book has wonderfully strong, brave, and complex female characters at its heart.

Upon finishing I re-read the prologue, and it made me reconsider everything I’d just read afresh. A stupendous achievement. I don’t want to risk blurting out any spoilers, so I’ll just say: read this book, you won’t regret it.

The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton: A sugar coated star debut 5/5 

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One Minute Critique: The Lemon Grove, by Helen Walsh

| One Minute Critique, One Minute Critique Books

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This book is hot. In more ways than one. First it is everywhere. Walsh’s fourth novel has generated the kind of splash you imagine took place moments before the front cover image was snapped. Reviews are plastered throughout newspapers. It’s in all the bookshops. Everyone’s talking about it. Clearly a contender for a summer hit.

The story revolves around Jenn, whose holiday with her husband in Deià is disrupted by the arrival of her teen stepdaughter Emma, and her boyfriend Nathan. Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. The second way in which this book is hot? It is good old-fashioned steamy, dripping with desire and the promise of sex. H.O.T.

The Lemon Grove is about many things: coming of age, and aging, youth, and middle age, rebellion, desire, experience and loyalty. It is about what we give up for those we love, and what we let go in ourselves. It’s refreshing and satisfying to read about a sexually active, sexually desirable middle-aged woman. More of that please. Women don’t cease being sexual at 45. At least I bloody hope they don’t.

Walsh’s skilful prose had me longing for a summer holiday of my own. You can feel the heat, hear the waves crashing on the beach and smell the lemons. Less than halfway in and I was craving a long tall drink to cool me down. Jenn’s story is intoxicating; the reader is pulled, as if with ease across the buoyant sea, toward an ending that clings to you like a wet swimsuit. This book quenches a thirst within.

The Lemon Grove, Helen Walsh – A refreshing glass of holiday lemonade 4/5

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