Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

imageToday Eleanor Flood really is going to be nicer to people, she’s going to be organised and efiicient and really listen to people when they talk to her. And she is absolutely not going to be bitchy or believe herself hard done by when she knows she’s very lucky really.

Then her young son applies make-up before going to school, she gets called by his teacher not long after he’s got to school to come and get him because he has a tummy ache (again) spoiling her poetry lesson. But this day those normal little tugs on the wool of life lead to a complete unravelling.

Before she quite knows what’s hit her she’s trying to track down her missing husband and trying to hide the sister she never speaks to from her son.

Written in first person and going through the worst day of Eleanore Floods life almost minute by minute this is addictive reading. I’m not going to lie, I did find Eleanor a little annoying to begin with, really her problems are very much first world problems although at least she does acknowledge that.

There are plenty of flashbacks set into the day and a whole host of interesting characters – Eleanor is a typical New York, artistic yummy mummy type but as the insecurities under the surface start to come out it is easy to warm to her.  The fact that she is funny and self-deprecating helps no end.

What seems to start as a spotlight on the pressures of modern womanhood soon morphs into a more indepth analysis of modern relationships, at least amongst artistic, middle-class New Yorkers!

4 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

americanahIfemelu left Lagos and the boy she loved there to go to college in America. The Nigeria she left was under military dictatorship, and her boyfriend Obinze was going to join her in the free world. But then 9/11 happened and he couldn’t get a visa.

Through this enforced separation  Ifemelu goes through some awful times but eventually finds friends and a job as a successful feature writer. But thirteen years later she can no longer ignore her feeling of displacement and yearns to return home.

With the passing of time Obinze has become a wealthy man, but neither of them has ever forgotten the honesty of their relationship or the mystery of its ending. Can they face each other again or have they both changed too much?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie can’t seem to write a book without it winning an award and she deserves them. This book has everything- love, conflict, social commentary, believable characters and excellent writing. The structure of this book is wonderful, it’s clever, but facilitates the story perfectly. We meet Ifemelu as she is about to enter a new hairdressers, a place where she will be sitting for hours with other African women giving her the chance to reflect on her experiences as an African woman in America. Far from being melancholy though, the story remains vibrant and immediate. Interspersed with this are some of Ifemelu’s blog posts from her successful blog ‘The Non-American Black’ which are conversational and insightful.

We also follow Obinze’s story, through which we see the changes in Nigeria as well as in his own personal life.

I fell in love with these characters and would really like to have hem as neighbours so I could hang out with them both, keep up with the gossip and set the world to rights! I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s stormed into my all-time favourites and I know I’ll be recommending it for years to come.

5 Bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Museum of Things Left Behind by Seni Glaister

  • cover68039-mediumVallerosa is a tiny country hiding in the  mountains between Italy and Austria. It  is a beautiful land with full employment, pungent tea, patriotism, rival cafés and a slower way of life. But it also has a stopped clock and a single student with a placard that could ruin the president just before election time (not that there is an opposition party but still…)

Then a letter arrives, announcing the imminent arrival of a Very Important Person. The Vallerosan President commands that instant preparations are made for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show off their country. This could bring them opportunities galore. But when the visitor arrives he discovers that a mistake has been made and new plans need to be laid quickly to rescue the situation.

There were many things to love about this book, Seni Glaister stirs little question bombs through this like popping candy through chocolate. The writing is warm and engaging but there are little pokes to make us ask ourselves if our way of life is really the best way.

The first characters we meet are all men and although they’re enjoyable to read and fairly believable they’re all a little two-dimensional, even in their inner turmoils. Women do eventually show up and again their characters are likeable but again there is no feeling of depth to them. The main female character is really far too good to be true.

My main problem with this book was the gender roles. In Vallerosa the men ‘run the show’ on the surface but in reality the woman are just letting them play at that to keep them busy while they do the real work. It’s a message that both infantilises men and disempowers women. I feel the author may have been trying to empower women in fact but she’s missed the mark this time. Deeper, more complex characters might have helped with this.

3.5 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Out of the darkness, Katy Hogan

 

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This novel is about the fog and pain of loss and the extraordinary healing bonds that can be forged when we let our barriers down. It is also about spirituality and life after death. It opens with Jessica who ten months on from the death of her mother is struggling with the void in her life and has delayed dealing with the practicalities that fall to her, the only child, to sort out. Her anger and sadness cause her to have an out of character one night stand with a stranger – who she never sees again. Realising she must do something to take control of her life she reluctantly joins a bereavement group and so triggers a series of seemingly casual meetings that, combined with her unexpected pregnancy, are about to change her life.

Among those who Jess meets is Alex, a young American woman who has recently moved to Brighton. Alex left her previous job because of major health problems and is starting life over as a voluntary art teacher. However since her move to Brighton Alex has come to believe that she is being haunted. In a search for answers she persuades Jess to accompany her to a spiritualist church meeting where, despite cynicism and farce, a meaningful message is received.

Hannah, a fellow attendee at the bereavement group, is drawn by chance into the friendship with Jess and Alex. Hannah’s mother has been lost in bitter grief for a year and Hannah has had to bear both grief and loss without the love of her mother or any support from her controlling husband. But hidden bonds connect the friends and these three young women support and strengthen each other and by extension their families. Their friendships are further deepened by the birth of Jessica’s son and they are all feeling more positive.

The hidden bonds gradually reveal themselves and bring the families closer just in time to deal with further unexpected tragedy.

This debut novel from Katy Hogan shows real promise. It is warm, considered and well thought out and she uses her own experience of  the spirit world to underpin the tale. The world of the medium is shown as a strange blend of the dowdy and the flashy, the inept and the skilled. The twists in the tale are cleverly concealed and although some might think it all a little too coincidental and tidy I found it heart-warming and entertaining. My only criticism is the feeling I had that Katy tried too hard to shape each line and to add the right number of adjectives, similes and metaphors, consequently some paragraphs have a formulaic feel. Nevertheless it is a good read, thoroughly enjoyable and I imagine it might well be uplifting for those struggling with grief. I’m torn between awarding a 3 bite accolade or awarding a 4 – why don’t you give it a go and see what you think.

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.