The A to Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson

A to ZIf my mother did this my sister and me, then I would conjure up her spirit to tell her what a fool she is. My sister and I would both find this process a complete waste of time, and one that would probably end with one or the other in jail. (Makes note not to buy this book for my mother)

I would however do this for my daughters if I felt they needed to reconnect and be there for each other after my death. Not that I would ever let things become so bad that I wasn’t speaking to my children on a regular basis.

Blood is thicker than water, however blood doesn’t mean you automatically have to be friends. In fact the reality is that many take a step back from family members because they are related but don’t like them.

Andrea has planned everything in fine detail. She wants Rose and Poppy to reunite and become the friends they once were. She wants them to support each other and get over the problems that keep them apart.

Poppy and Rose used to be as thick as thieves until something ripped them apart. Now they are like strangers, and Poppy doesn’t even know her nephew.

Rose is just as guilty as Poppy, as far as I am concerned. It takes two to tango and yet Rose places all the blame on Poppy. Of course it is more of a betrayal if it is your sister, but come on now blaming one person is ludicrous.

The idea itself is quite an interesting one. You don’t know what you’ve lost until it is gone forever. It is all about taking people for granted and letting relationships get to the point of no return. Both women have to learn to put the past behind them and to move forward with a clean slate. It is an emotional and honest read, possibly because it is a realistic scenario.

Buy The A to Z of Everything at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @Debbiemjohnson@HarperImpulse or @HarperCollinsUk

Join us on the Blog-Tour: Love Is by Haley Hill

Come along and have a gander at the tour, and see what I and my fellow bloggers have to say about the life and times of Eleanor Rigby in Love Is by Haley Hill. Follow the links below to read all about it.

Follow @HaleyHillNow and @HQStories on Twitter and look out for #LoveIs

9th Sep at bookaholicconfessions.wordpress.com

10th Sep at sincerelybookangels.blogspot.co.uk

11th Sep at kellysbookcorner.blogspot.co.uk

12th Sep at brizzlelassbooks.wordpress.com

13th Sep at bookishjottings.wordpress.com

14th Sep at cancersuckscouk.ipage.com

15th Sep at manybooksmanylives.com

16th Sep at here and cherylmmbookblog.blogspot.co.uk

17th Sep at bookreferees.org

18th Sep at thewritinggarnet.wordpress.com

Hope to see you here on the 16th for my review of Love Is…!

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

charmsThe style of the story is reminiscent of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and the subsequent Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

Arthur is grieving for his wife. His story is about processing the grief and coming to terms with the woman she was with him and the woman she was before he come into her life.

Isn’t that true for all of us or at least the majority of us? There is always an element of ourselves and our lives we keep hidden from our spouses and/or life partners. The life, friends, adventures and experiences before you settle down, and sometimes even after you’ve settled down. Secret lives and the unknown facets of the person you love.

This is exactly what happens to Arthur. He finds an expensive charm bracelet in a small box hidden in a shoe in his wife’s cupboard. A trinket he has never seen before and knows nothing about.

The charms end up leading him on a lifetime of adventures. He discovers so many new things about Miriam, things he couldn’t have imagined her ever doing. Ex-lovers, trips to exotic places and even living in India for a while. It makes him doubt the life they had together and the love they had for each other.

In the end this is a story of how Arthur emerges from the darkness and the depths of his grief. How he reconnects with life and in a way with the Miriam he used to know and most importantly the Miriam he knows now.

It’s a lovely tale of sorrow, loneliness and despair, which is replaced by curiosity, happiness and a zest for life.

Buy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

dictionayI absolutely loved this book. It has been long-listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, and I have to say it not only deserves to be listed, but also to win. I admit the last few pages made me cry. Tends to be my reaction to things or works of art of great beauty. Music, art and yes, even great and beautiful fiction.

Some authors write well and others are just natural storytellers, the combination of the two can make for a spectacular read. Copleton does both really well. In fact if I didn’t know any better I would swear Amaterasu was not a fictional person at all, and wrote this story herself, that’s how realistic it is.

The title doesn’t really do the story any justice, however I do believe it emulates the subtlety of the tale. Within the subtle weaving of emotional turmoil is the fragile spider-web of family dynamics. Those elements are off-set and enhanced by the intricate details of the bombing of Nagasaki.

I also really enjoyed the passages at the beginning of each chapter. The information about Japanese traditions, phrases and etiquette gave an extra level of understanding to the story.

The main focus is on the relationship between Amaterasu and her daughter Yuko. The way Amaterasu interferes to change and determine Yuko’s path in life, how she deals with her guilt, and how her past casts a long shadow over her entire life.

Simultaneously Amaterasu has to deal with the possibility that her grandchild may not have been killed at all. When the alleged grandson turns up at her door after many decades, everything she has resigned herself to for so many years is torn apart by doubt. Her resistance to the possible truth is fascinating. as if the burden of guilt is bigger than the joy at being wrong all those years.

Irrespective of the actual ending or the truth, I think Hideo’s true identity becomes irrelevant at some point. He is merely another victim of an unnecessary tragedy and atrocity. Does it really matter whether he is Hideo or not?

As for Amaterasu, I understand the meddling and the manipulation. She is a mother and only wants what is best for her child. Unlike Yuko she has the full picture and all the information, perhaps if she had been honest Yuko may have made different choices in regards to Sato.

This story is captivating and emotionally moving. It is literary fiction at its finest. Copleton manages to capture the horror and the aftermath of Nagasaki in a way that makes the reader feel as if they are right there. The family dynamics and relationships fit snugly around the pikadon. Family and man-made atrocity go hand in hand to create a truly wonderful read.

Buy A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

missing piecesThis didn’t really do it for me.

I think the real culprit was obvious pretty much from the get go. A wee bit of a psycho vibe going on there. A tiny niggle here and there was later confirmed.

Jack makes it hard for for Sarah to trust him. She has no idea about his past, the murder in his family or his past liaison with his brother’s wife.

Sarah feels boxed into a tiny corner by the events in her husband’s home-town. Who can be trusted? Is there anyone on her side? Is Jack just playing some kind of sick game with her life and that of her children.

Suddenly the man she has loved for many years is not only a stranger, but also a potential multiple killer. On top of that Jack seems to be really cosy with his ex. Talk about making someone look like a complete fool. I think I would be slightly angry and overly cautious too under those circumstances.

From the very beginning Jack and Sarah appear to be complete strangers, despite the fact they have been married for a few decades and have two children. Perhaps that is what makes everything seem so disconnected. Baring that the characters might just have lacked depth.

Overall it felt a bit messy, but it was an ok read.

Buy Missing Pieces at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

spoolThe title couldn’t be more apt, the story certainly unravels like a spool of thread. Isn’t that the way life is and why it often appears as if just a moment has passed when in reality is actually days, months and years.

For me this story was about the inevitability of old age. Almost a rite of passage.

The reader meets Abby and Red in the here and now and also gets to follow their story from the past to the present. The story of how they met and built their life, home and family together. Central to the story is the house they live in and their children.

Abby and Red have gotten to an age where they need some assistance and care. Their children wander between falling over themselves to help and trying to avoid the obvious issues.

This causes a lot of friction between certain members of the family. Old jealousy and rivalry surfaces and creates even bigger cracks within the family.

Isn’t there a Denny in nearly every family? The sibling who lives disconnected from everyone else by choice, and yet still manages to blame the entire family for his lack of connection. I found his character quite intriguing, especially when he started to try and call out the cuckoo in the nest. His jealousy and sudden interest in asserting his authority and place in the family causes a lot of turmoil in the family.

Reading this is like standing outside, peering in through the kitchen window and watching a family from the outside. It isn’t written with any dramatic soap opera like surprises or deep dark secrets. It’s just like any old family with petty arguments, responsibilities and complicated relationships.

Buy A Spool of Blue Thread at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

ExposureBased in 1960, this Cold War story is a mixture of politics, bureaucracy, spy story and about relationships. In fact I felt as if the emphasis was on family and love, regardless of whether it was hetero or homosexual.

I particularly liked the way Dunmore wrote the confrontational scenes between Lily and the person sent to interview her.

The misconception of people thinking that if you were born in a country it automatically means you can speak the language fluently, despite leaving the country as a young child.

Also the cold reality of naturalisation often only being a pretty bureaucratic word. Once a foreigner always a foreigner is a common reaction and the subconscious thought most people try to suppress

I actually think Lily made a subconscious decision to ‘forget’ her first language. Too many uncomfortable images. memories and anger. As if forgetting her origins would help in the remodelling of her self. She is still very paranoid about being treated differently because of her religion. Lilly looks for the anti-Semite in everyone. Completely normal for survivors and I would say almost a persecution complex, but then perhaps Lily isn’t so paranoid after all.

When Simon is accused of treason and spying Lily finds she has already landed right in the middle of this mess, even before any accusations had started flying. She acts instinctively in an effort to protect her family.

Throughout the turmoil and embarrassment of the accusations Dunmore has woven the two loves of Simon into the fabric of the story. His past and his present, his hidden desires and his open conformity. In their own way the two loves save Simon.

I liked the combination of emotion versus political chess playing, of betrayal versus protection and the backdrop of the minefield of a post-war world.

Buy Exposure at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.